Workers' compensation and new businesses
In the early stages of starting a company, small business owners have many factors to consider. What your business does and what it requires of an employee has consequences from a workers' compensation perspective. Understanding what exposure your company may have, and being proactive to prevent workplace injuries, can help lower the cost burden of workers' compensation insurance.
What is workers' compensation (WC) insurance?
In a nutshell, it is insurance that covers an injury that arises out of and in the course of employment.
How many employees must a company have to require WC?
In New Hampshire, as few as one employee.
What is not covered under WC?
Circumstances vary, but these injuries are generally not covered by WC: self-inflicted injury • injury caused by intoxication from drugs and alcohol, assuming the employer did not know about the intoxication • employee-started fight, if the basis of it is personal in nature • driving to and from work, unless the worker is considered a traveling employee • participation in athletic/recreational activities, on or off premises, unless the employee reasonably expected, based on the employer's instruction or policy, that participation was a condition of employment or required for promotion, increased compensation or continued employment • mental injury/illness arising from good faith action taken by the employer, including but not limited to: work evaluation, disciplinary action, job transfer, lay-off, demotion or termination
Can an employer still be sued?
Except for intentional torts, the state's workers' compensation statute bars injured employees who sustained a compensable injury from bringing action at common law or by statute. However, an employee can elect to bring action to recover damages for wrongful termination or constructive discharge. If the worker pursues this remedy, he/she waives claims for compensation allegedly caused by such termination or discharge.
What does WC insurance cover?
WC insurance specifically insures an employer for costs from a work-related injury such as lost wages, medical costs, permanent impairment awards, vocational services, and costs associated with an attorney to defend your company if there is a claim.
Paul Kfoury Jr. is a partner at Trombley Kfoury, P.A., a law firm specializing in workers' compensation issues. He is past chair of the New Hampshire Bar Association's Workers' Compensation Section, and speaks with insurance companies and employers regularly. He also holds trainings and seminars involving WC issues.