Workers’ compensation is an alternative insurance system that provides immediate benefits and financial support in exchange for the worker waiving civil litigation rights against their employer. Historically, workers were only entitled to compensation for work-related injuries after protracted litigation that established causation and fault.
Workers’ Compensation Insurance is No-Fault
Workers’ compensation is a no-fault insurance scheme in which the worker need only establish (1) they were injured (2) while doing their job, and they will receive benefits to cover lost wages and medical costs.
Workers’ compensation insurance also provides coverage for rehabilitation and physical therapy to help workers return to their job and normal daily function. If a worker can’t return to their regular work, then workers’ compensation can also provide vocational training.
Workers’ Compensation is Primarily a State-Law Issue
The Immigration Reform and Control Act prohibits the federal government from employing undocumented immigrants and requires federal contractors to verify immigration status. Therefore, most workers’ compensation issues are resolved in state rather than federal courts.
Workers’ compensation is primarily a state insurance system. It is created and enforced through state government institutions. American immigrants, such as those brought by work and family visas, are protected by workers’ compensation insurance. Moreover, in general, most states expressly or implicitly include undocumented immigrations within workers’ compensation coverage. The extension of coverage to undocumented immigrants is to discourage employers from hiring undocumented immigrants because they can save money on insurance costs.
California, Texas, North Carolina, Hawaii, Arkansas, Arizona, Tennessee, and Colorado all have laws that expressly extend workers’ compensation coverage to undocumented immigrants. Therefore, an undocumented immigrant driver injured in a wreck while on a delivery is entitled to workers’ compensation coverage.
Moreover, state government agencies and courts, such as Illinois, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, and Georgia, have ruled that coverage extends to undocumented immigrants based on existing state statutes. However, one notable standout is the Wyoming Supreme Court which ruled that workers’ compensation does not protect undocumented immigrants.