Ask The Expert: What are the Basics of Workers’ Compensation Coverage?

Workers' compensation laws were developed in the United States in the early 1900s. These rules gave workers no-fault access to treatment and compensation for work-related injuries and occupational diseases arising out of the course and scope of their employment. For the most part, these laws created rights for injured workers and made the settlement of workplace injuries an administrative matter rather than a civil matter.

Statutes covering workers’ compensation vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, but employers gain protection of no-fault compensation. States define which size or types of employers may “opt out” of the system and forego the purchase of workers’ compensation coverage. However, even those who forego coverage can be liable in the event of an injury or accident. When an eligible employer decides to opt out of coverage, they are actually opting in to exposing themselves and their other workers to litigation in the event of a serious or even not-so-serious workplace injury or illness.

It is true that most church work is non-hazardous and injuries similar to industrial ones that spawned the system generally don’t happen. However, people can fall off ladders or down the stairs or they could slip and fall. They sometimes get in automobile accidents or hurt their backs lifting something they thought they could lift. Accidents are sometimes completely or partially caused by the inadvertent actions of co-workers. These claims can expose the church and its employees to lawsuits if the injured party seeks compensation in the absence of workers’ compensation coverage and in the absence or insufficiency of disability or other applicable coverages.

So, before you opt out or continue to opt out of workers’ compensation coverage, ask yourselves these questions:

  • Do I want to risk significant cost to the church resulting from an uncompensated injury?

  • Do I want to expose my employees to the cost of either providing their own medical care and income or suing the church and its employees to recover damages?

  • Do I want to expose my employees to defending themselves in a lawsuit brought by a coworker, due to an accident for which they are allegedly responsible?

  • Is there a master workers’ compensation policy at the conference level that I can use to pay a premium that doesn’t include the minimum cost of issuing an insurance policy?

Regardless of how likely you think it is that someone will get hurt doing church business, it can and does happen. If it happens in your church, help make sure that you are protected. Contact us at 866-203-0777 or to see how we can help you identify the best way for your church to obtain this important coverage.