In a very odd coincidence, in recent months I’ve had two injured workers contact me who both had three fingers severed in a work related accident and both of whom worker for employers that did not have Illinois workers’ compensation insurance. Note that it’s a felony for an employer not to have insurance for work comp.

The first one worked at a Chicago area restaurant. While he can apply for a State program that provides benefits to injured workers whose companies didn’t have insurance, it’s going to be a long process for him. There are no trial motions we can file to speed up the case and he won’t likely get the full benefits he would have received if he didn’t work for a crook.

I wouldn’t call the second worker lucky. After all he lost his fingers in a power saw accident. But he’s luckier than the first guy. That’s because even though his employer didn’t have insurance, the job was part of a larger construction project. The general contractor who hired his company does have insurance. Under the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act, Section 1(a)(3), they are considered “joint and severally liable” for compensation owed to the employees of any contractor.

In plain English, this means that just because you got hired by a shady operation doesn’t mean are out of luck. The general contractor has a lot of responsibilities including providing a safe work environment as well as making sure that any contractors on the job are following the law.

In this case they brought on a company that was committing a felony by not having insurance. The general contractor had a duty to ask for a certificate of insurance before they brought them on. They either didn’t do that or didn’t care, likely in hopes of saving some money instead of hiring a reputable company.  The end result is that it’s going to cost them more money because their insurance will now have to cover all of the medical bills, time off work and settlement for this injured worker.

While there is a lot to sort out between those two companies, that’s their problem, not that of the injured worker. Our goal is to make sure he can get taken care of medically and financially as quickly as possible. Fortunately, Illinois laws make that possible and he should not have any delays.

The bottom line is that for almost any worker on a construction site, whether or not there is work comp insurance should almost never be a worry.  There likely is one way or another.