As a small business owner, creating and maintaining a safe work environment is something you just can’t overlook. But accidents still happen even in the safest of workplaces, which is why workers’ compensation insurance is important for all businesses. If you run a business in West Virginia, maintaining workers’ compensation insurance is a requirement

While many types of small business insurance aren’t required by law, workers’ compensation is mandated for most West Virginia employers. That’s because workers’ comp helps protect not only your employees but your business as well.

In this article, we’ll discuss all the West Virginia workers’ compensation laws and requirements you need to know.


How does workers’ compensation insurance in West Virginia work?


In West Virginia, you must carry workers’ compensation insurance if you have one or more part-time or full-time employees, (unless you qualify for an exemption). We’ll cover exemptions in the next section.

You can obtain workers’ compensation insurance through any number of private insurance carriers. If your business is too high-risk to meet the private carrier threshold, you can apply for an Assigned Risk Plan through the National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI).

Some employers can apply to become self-insurers. This is only an option for large companies with robust financial resources involving a lengthy application and audit process.


Who needs workers’ compensation insurance in West Virginia?


Usually, you need to get workers’ compensation coverage as soon as you hire an employee for your business. However, you may not have to get coverage for every individual who works for you. Some exceptions are:

  • Domestic workers performing work in your home
  • Agricultural workers at an agricultural business with five or fewer employees
  • Casual workers
  • Church workers
  • Professional sports participants (athletes and their trainers)
  • Volunteer workers sponsored by government entities (volunteer rescue and police)
  • Employees already insured by the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act

As an employer, you also don’t have to provide coverage for any independent contractors working for you. There’s a catch, though: they must meet at least three of the following criteria to be considered independent contractors by the state of West Virginia:

  • They have control over the time they spend working with you
  • They have control over where they perform their services
  • They’re not expected to work exclusively for you
  • They’re free to seek work from other clients
  • They can hire their own employees or independent contractors
  • They’re not expected to perform duties outside their contract
  • They have permission to use your entire workspace to perform their work
  • The IRS has not classified them as an employee
  • They’re responsible for acquiring and maintaining all certifications and licenses required to perform their work


What are the penalties for not having workers’ comp in West Virginia?


Not carrying workers’ compensation insurance when you’re required to do so can lead to steep penalties in West Virginia. The first offense is typically a $500 fine, with $25,000 fines for subsequent offenses. Repeat offenders can expect to face stop-work orders and even jail time. Failure to pay premiums can lead to late fees of 10% plus interest.

On top of legal penalties, not having coverage opens your business up to significant liability. If an employee does get injured on the job and you don’t have insurance, you could end up paying out-of-pocket for their medical costs and lost wages. How much you end up paying over the long term could be many times higher than your annual premium costs.


What does workers’ comp cover?

Medical costs

Hospital visits are expensive. If one of your employees gets hurt on the job, they could be looking at thousands of dollars or more in medical bills. Workers’ comp helps your employees by covering those medical costs.

For example, say that you own a cafe and your barista burns herself while using the steaming wand. She immediately goes to urgent care for her injury. Your workers’ compensation insurance would cover the cost of her visit and medical treatment.

Lost Wages

In many cases, employees who suffer workplace injuries are unable to return to work for a period of time. In those cases, workers’ comp can cover a portion of their lost wages.

For example, the barista in the above example may not be able to return to work until the burns on her hand heal and she’s cleared for work by her doctor. While she’s at home, workers’ comp would cover some of her average weekly salary.

Ongoing Care

Some workplace injuries are sudden, but others are chronic injuries that develop over years of repeated actions. Back problems, carpal tunnel syndrome and hearing loss are all examples of repetitive stress injuries that may require ongoing medical treatment to address.

For example, you run a roofing company and one of your long-time employees develops a chronic back condition. If the cause of their injury is determined to be from performing work for your company, your insurance policy could cover their physical therapy and pain management expenses.

Death Benefits

While it’s uncomfortable to think about, deaths can and do occur at the workplace. If one of your employees dies from a work-related injury, workers’ comp can award death benefits and funeral expenses to their next of kin. Death benefits are paid to spouses and dependents. If a deceased employee doesn’t have a spouse or eligible dependents, death benefits will cover the cost of burial up to a specified policy limit.