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Many Texas workers uninsured by employers

According to Texas state insurance officials, a minimum of 500,000 workers have no occupational insurance coverage available in case of an accident on the job. This figure represents the number of employees who are not covered under a state-approved workers' compensation plan or a private alternative.

Texas is the only state that allows the decision to have a workers' compensation plan or private alternative to be voluntary for businesses of any size. However, this may be changing as the Texas House Committee on Business and Industry is currently conducting a study of the system and the ability to afford this system. The issue sparked debate in a recent legislative hearing. Some proponents for change argue that taxpayers wind up having to pay the cost for this insurance by absorbing unpaid medical bills. The number of uninsured workers is an estimate because only a small number of businesses comply with the requirement to notify state authorities about their coverage or lack thereof. However, the estimate is that about 30 percent of employers do not have any kind of coverage for their injured workers.

At the legislative hearing, injured workers provided testimony about their experiences. For example, one man said that his family was devastated financially when his roofer father died while working in 2004. He said that his employer was nowhere to be found the day after the accident. The man had to sacrifice his savings that were meant to pay for him to go to college. One recommendation that was raised during the hearing was to make workers' compensation mandatory for employees in very risky occupations.

Individuals who are not covered by workers' compensation and who are injured on the job may be able to sue their employers if the injury was due to the employer's negligence. An attorney can inform a client about the options to seek compensation for their injuries.

Source: The Texas Tribune, "A Half-Million in Texas Without Workplace Insurance", Jay Root, April 22, 2014

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