Nearly 2,000 employers statewide without workers' comp insurance

By Steve Korris | Aug 3, 2006

CHARLESTON – Almost 2,000 West Virginia employers lost workers compensation insurance by failing to pay premiums to the state's only workers compensation insurer.

BrickStreet Mutual on Aug. 2 compiled a list of 1,987 employers who did not pay premiums and sent the list to state insurance commissioner Jane Cline.

Cline will assign all the employers to the state's Uninsured Fund.

Anyone who suffers an injury working for an uninsured employer must try to recover from the owners or officers of the employer.

Cline said, "We are disappointed. We thought with all the information we sent out, they would understand they had to pay by the premium due date."

She said, "I was hopeful that employers would have cancelled, sought exemptions or paid BrickStreet."

Overall, she said, the transition from state to private workers compensation has gone well.

The West Virginia Legislature abolished the 82 year old Workers Compensation Commission effective Dec. 31, and authorized creation of a private company.

The new insurer, which chose the name BrickStreet, will hold a monopoly until July 1, 2008. After that anyone can sell workers compensation policies in West Virginia.

The default list represents five percent of West Virginia employers, but it represents a much smaller percentage of West Virginia workers.

Although Cline does not yet know how many workers lost protection, she pointed out that most employers on the list owed small amounts.

The average unpaid premium was about $700.

Cline said, "A large portion of the employers on the list owe less than $500. For the most part it is lower risk employers."

She said Mid-Atlantic Materials, of Maryland, owed the most – about $107,000.

All employers on the list paid initial premiums to BrickStreet earlier this year.

Premiums that came due this summer reflected for the first time a massive reclassification of jobs that BrickStreet carried out to increase fairness.

Cline said about 30 employers challenged reclassifications through her office and about 80 challenged them through BrickStreet.

She said some employers challenged reclassification through both offices.

The default list includes doctors, lawyers, insurance agents, private schools, volunteer fire departments, churches and taverns.

The Cabell County Solid Waste Authority lost its coverage.

Employers from other states accounted for more than a fourth of the defaults.

Cline said some employers signed up with BrickStreet even though they could have claimed exemptions.

State law relieves eight employer groups of mandatory workers compensation, though they can choose to pay for it.

Exemptions apply to employers of domestic workers, employers of five or fewer full time agricultural workers, employers of workers in other states, "casual employers" with up to three workers in sporadic jobs, churches, employers in professional sports including horse trainers and jockeys, volunteer rescue squads or volunteer police auxiliaries, and employers whose workers qualify for benefits under the federal Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act.

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