Nationwide, employers are required to have workers’ compensation (aka workers’ comp) insurance in case employees are injured on the job; but specifics can vary according to state.

In Tennessee, employers are required to have workers’ comp if they employ 5 or more people, or just 1 person if they work in the construction industry. The coverage has to begin before those employees’ first day of work.

Even companies with smaller staff than 5 employees often opt to carry workers’ comp, because it can protect the employer from civil lawsuits if someone gets injured on the job.

But sometimes companies try to get buy without paying for the insurance. Certain employers try to protect themselves from civil lawsuits by hiring immigrants who aren’t aware of their rights and who may be afraid to contact law enforcement. Or the employer might simply try to keep his or her workers in the dark so they don’t know or understand how the system works if they’re injured on the job.

Sometimes employers try to protect themselves by telling an injured employee that his or her private insurance has to cover the injury. They might say the injury was the employee’s fault and his or her responsibility.

This isn’t true. In fact, the regular medical insurance company will deny the claim if they see the injury happened while at work. It’s not their responsibility to pay – it’s the employer’s.

Workers’ comp in Tennessee is a “no-fault” system. It doesn’t matter who caused the injury. If the accident happened while working, the employee is not responsible for the costs.

If you suspect your employer doesn’t have workers’ comp, or you just want to make sure, there are ways to find out. Your state’s labor department can tell you. They usually have an option for you to search anonymously for your employer’s policy information.

In Tennessee, that search feature is available here through the Department of Labor and Workforce Development. Just input your employer’s business name. Make sure to type it exactly; or if you’re unsure, type only part of the name.

If you can’t find a policy listed, you can fill out a form to request an investigation of the employer (PDF here).

(Note: The form is not anonymous, unfortunately, so there’s a chance your employer could find out you submitted the request. You may want another party to submit on your behalf. If you already have an attorney, he or she may be able to help with this process so you aren’t illegally punished by your employer.)

If you’ve been injured and your employer is refusing to report it for whatever reason, including a lack of insurance, you need to contact a workers’ compensation lawyer immediately. Our attorneys work on cases like this all the time.

A good workers’ comp attorney will walk you through the process so you’re well aware of your rights and how the system works.  They can help protect you from retaliation by your employer for reporting the injury to someone. And they shouldn’t get paid unless you do.

If you have more questions about your employers’ insurance or would like to speak with one of our attorneys about a workplace injury, don’t hesitate to contact us.