The workers’ compensation insurance system is based on the premise that employees hurt at work will recover lost wages without having to prove who was at fault for an injury.
Employers that don’t carry workers’ comp insurance may be sued directly for negligence—and that means injured workers could win far higher awards for damages.
Recent case: Reyes Garcia worked for Oceans Sports Bar in Whittier as a bouncer and doorman. His job was to eject unruly patrons and control the line of people waiting to enter.
The bar was located in a strip mall, where youths sometimes loitered, drinking alcohol and otherwise creating a nuisance. Garcia was supposed to chase them away and pick up any empty bottles left around. One evening, he approached people hanging out in the parking lot. One of them pulled out a gun and fatally shot Garcia.
It turned out that Oceans didn’t have workers’ compensation insurance covering Garcia, so his family sued the bar owners directly, alleging negligence. Their suit argued that the owners should have known that Garcia might be shot in the parking lot and should have provided better training and security.
The court dismissed the case—but only because there had been no reports of violence in the neighborhood. Therefore, the court said, the owners couldn’t reasonably have foreseen Garcia’s fate. (Garcia v. Oceans Sports Bar, No. B217207, Court of Appeal of California, 2nd Appellate District, 2010)