Every state in the USA requires that workers injured on the job be covered by Workers’ Compensation insurance, and most USA employers know how to purchase this coverage as part of their normal business practices.
Complications can arise, however, when non-USA companies send workers to the USA. These workers are often paid directly by the non-USA company. This is often where a huge mistake is often made— they believe that they don’t need to purchase Workers’ Compensation insurance in the state where the work is being done.
If a worker is never injured, it is likely that the error will never be found out. States track salaries paid in the USA, not in foreign countries, so they will never be made aware of the lack of Workers’ Compensation insurance. This risk is not worth taking.
WHAT HAPPENS IF A NON-USA EMPLOYEE IS INJURED ON THE JOB?
A worker from a non-USA company injured on the job in the USA is entitled to workers compensation benefits in the state where they are injured, even if they are also entitled to benefits in their mother country.
Each state has a special fund that pays for the workers medical bills, salary for their missed time at work, as well as an award for any permanent disability, which includes more injuries than one might think. For instance, if a worker’s leg is broken and heals he will still be considered “partially disabled” because the leg will never be as good as a leg that has never been broken.
Then, there are the medical bills. Any injury requiring hospitalization will create a claim of hundreds of thousands of dollars. There are even attorneys in the USA that specialize in finding and collecting money on behalf of injured workers. And they will collect.
If the mother company has a subsidiary in the USA, the state fund will file a lawsuit against that subsidiary for the amount they paid. If no subsidiary exists, they will file a suit in the USA against the mother company. Even if the mother company has no assets in the USA, they will not be permitted to do business there again until the judgment is satisfied. Alternatively, states are now enforcing these judgments in Europe using existing treaties with most European nations. These treaties state that a valid judgment in the USA can be collected from a European based company.
So, what is to be done?
THE BEST WAY TO AVOID A TRAP IS TO WORK WITH AN EXPERT
Foa & Son remains the last independent firm specializing in coverage for global companies doing business in the USA. Our expertise can keep non-USA companies from exposing themselves to the workers compensation liability by crafting the proper insurance for this specialized exposure.
Are you interested in reevaluating your non-USA business’ worker’s comp needs? We are here to walk you through it.