Does Your Law Firm Need a Workers’ Compensation Policy?
Workers’ compensation is a unique insurance coverage employers can purchase to help cover damages related to employees’ injuries experienced in the course of their professional duties.
Workers' compensation is a given for high-risk workplaces like construction sites. You might assume that your law firm is a relatively low-risk environment in comparison and thus doesn’t need workers’ compensation coverage. In fact, workers’ compensation insurance for law firms is well worth the investment – and, in some instances, it may be legally required. Get the facts below.
What Is Workers’ Compensation?
Workers’ compensation helps to cover the cost of an employee who becomes injured or ill on the job. This insurance may cover:
- Medical bills resulting from the injury or illness. The cost of diagnostic x-rays alone can range from a couple of hundred dollars to thousands, depending on the location and the area being scanned. Factor in the actual treatment costs, and the expenses resulting from a single injury will quickly add up.
- Temporary loss of wages due to time lost at the office because of injury or illness. Requirements for minimum compensation amounts vary by state, although most states require that workers' compensation cover at least 66% of the worker's pre-disability income.
- Permanent damage, such as permanent loss of use of a body part, organ, or function (e.g., loss of a limb or hearing loss).
When Can Workers’ Compensation Apply?
To claim workers’ compensation benefits, the employee must be able to prove that they experienced their illness or injury while performing their professional duties. Beware that workers’ compensation insurance for law firms is “no-fault.” That means that even if the employee’s actions may have contributed to their illness, the amount an employee may receive is not impacted by their own negligence.
However, there are some exceptions – for example, if an employee was intoxicated, committing a crime, or violating a company policy when the incident occurred. Self-inflicted injuries also aren’t covered under workers’ compensation.
Worker’s compensation may also apply if the general work environment contributed to or caused an employee’s injury or illness. In the past, office workers exposed to asbestos in the workplace have (successfully) sued employers to cover the costs of their medical care.
Finally, an injury or illness doesn’t have to be related to an accident or occur suddenly for workers’ compensation to kick in. Office workers are susceptible to unique ailments, such as carpal tunnel syndrome. Other possible complaints related to desk jobs include back pain or tendinitis.
Why Does Your Law Firm Need Workers’ Compensation?
Law firms that fail to get workers’ compensation may face legal and financial repercussions.
Many states require employers to take out workers’ compensation insurance on their employees. This is to ensure a safe work environment, where employees are protected and won’t suffer economic damages if they are hurt at work.
Laws varies significantly between states. For example, some states only make workers' comp mandatory if an employer has a minimum number of workers. In New Mexico, the number is three, while in Alabama, it’s five.
If an employee gets hurt and doesn’t have workers’ compensation, they may sue the employer for damages. The employer may further get in trouble for violating their state’s employee protection laws. This can result in financial and reputational damages. Making headlines because of a workers’ compensation lawsuit isn’t great for business.
Workers’ compensation insurance for law firms may not be required, depending on your situation. For example, if you are a solo practitioner with a paralegal located in a state that doesn’t require coverage for that size business.
Nonetheless, workers’ compensation is worth the investment. If an employee gets injured on the job, you may be held liable. The resulting costs can be hefty. Again, while an attorney’s job might seem relatively low-risk – especially when compared to more physically demanding industries like manual labor or trucking – accidents happen.
Here are some possible hypothetical scenarios:
- A senior associate injures their back while lifting a box of files. They are diagnosed with a herniated disc (this may require diagnostic tests like x-rays) and need surgery plus two months off to recover. They further need physical therapy following their operation to minimize the risk of future recurrence.
- A paralegal who has been working with a law firm for many years and whose work primarily requires computer use develops carpal tunnel syndrome. The paralegal requires endoscopic surgery to reduce symptoms of pain, tingling, and numbness in the wrist, hand, and fingers.
- A junior lawyer comes rushing into work late on a rainy day. Water has pooled on the floor of the law firm's entryway, and the attorney slips and falls on the slick surface. They experience injuries including a fractured wrist and mild concussion, which require urgent care.
As you can imagine, the costs for covering ailments like those described above can add up. These scenarios may seem far-fetched or extreme, but such incidents can (and do) happen.
Workers’ Compensation Insurance for Law Firms
Aon Attorneys Advantage offers workers’ compensation insurance for law firms. Benefits vary by state. Depending on your location, size of the firm, type of entity, and other factors, coverage may include medical expenses, rehabilitation costs, lost wages, permanent impairment compensation, and – in the worst case – death benefits for families of individuals fatally injured on the job.
One of our insurance specialists can help you determine the type of coverage you may benefit from. You can also compare multiple business insurance quotes in minutes through our robust platform.