In the context of the workers’ compensation insurance industry, Texas is the outlaw. Employers in Texas are not required to carry workers’ compensation insurance, making it the only U.S. state to allow employers of all sizes to opt out of the workers’ compensation system. Recently, Walmart caused a stir by joining corporations like Target that have opted out and dropped workers’ compensation coverage, according to The Texas Tribune.
TEXAS WORKERS’ COMPENSATION
In Texas, employees who suffer job-related injuries or develop work-related illnesses can receive workers’ compensation benefits if their employer participates in the workers’ compensation program. Workers’ compensation provides payments for lost income if the injury or illness caused more than seven days of lost wages. It also covers medical treatment of an injury or illness if both of the following apply:
- The injury occurred at work or the disease or illness is job-related
- The employer has workers’ compensation insurance or is certified to self-insure by the Texas Department of Insurance
- Carrying state-regulated workers’ compensation protects Texas employers from most liability for employees’ injuries or illnesses. Opting out might help employers achieve cost savings through often-cheaper private insurance, but it also results in exposure to the risk of lawsuits brought by injured employees.
PRIVATE INSURANCE: GOOD FOR WORKERS?
Walmart’s decision to drop workers’ compensation raised controversy about the rights of injured workers. Employees can obtain benefits for work-related injuries and illnesses when their employer carries private insurance, but it is up for debate whether state-regulated insurance or private coverage does a better job of ensuring that injured and sick employees get proper medical care.
A Walmart spokesman told The Texas Tribune that the company’s new policy not only results in cost savings but also allows Walmart to provide better care to employees. Critics of employers’ right to opt out of workers’ compensation, however, believe private-plan benefits are generally inferior to those available to employees covered by state-regulated insurance.
Injured employees should consult with an experienced and aggressive personal injury attorney who can prepare their case and fight on their behalf for any available compensation through workers’ compensation or a claim for damages.