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Many Texas workers lack insurance for on-the-job injuries

Texas is the only state in the union that does not require employers to carry workers' compensation insurance. During a legislative hearing, the Texas Department of Insurance (TDI) reported that approximately 500,000 Texas workers have no insurance coverage for occupational injuries.

Because Texas does not require employers to join the state workers' compensation insurance system, some employers self-insure or select a third-party insurance provided to cover their workers . But many do nothing.

In a perfect world, workers for these companies would never be hurt or killed. However, that is not the world we live and work in, and the reality for many workers is no compensation for any workplace injury, including for those who die on the job.

The TDI estimates are an extrapolation, because so few businesses comply with state regulations that require that they report their workers' compensation insurance status.

Ostensibly, workers would have the ability to sue their employer for negligence after an injury. In reality, many of the companies that lack insurance coverage disappear after a worker is injured, leaving no assets, no forwarding address and no one to sue.

The committee heard testimony of a man whose father died in a roofing accident. The company vanished and the man lost his college savings to help the family survive.

These are the situations workers' compensation insurance was created to prevent. And it is no just workers who are hurt by this behavior. Other employers, who play by the rules and protect their workers, are punished in the marketplace by unscrupulous employers who can underbid their work and steal their business.

Texas workers deserve better than this lottery, where they may be injured on the job, but may not be able to recover any compensation for those injuries. 

Source: The Texas Tribune, "A half-million in Texas without workplace insurance," Jay Root, April 22, 2014

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