Three Ways Workers' Comp Coverage For Minors Differs From Adults

Posted on: 20 April 2017

Although the labor laws treat minors differently than adults, they must be covered by workers' compensation all the same. In fact, the insurance coverage provides additional protections for workers under the age of 18. Here are three ways workers' compensation for minors differs from adults and how that may affect a claim for benefits.

Illegal Employment

All states have laws regulating at what age minors can legally start working, and some require teens obtain work permits before they can be employed. Companies who flout these laws face a more brutal punishment when it comes to workers' compensation payouts. In some states, employers become liable for paying two or three times the base compensation awarded to the injured employee.

In Rhode Island, for example, companies who violate the law when employing minors will be liable for paying treble (triple) damages the person would get if they were legally employed. So if a teen was injured on the job and suffered $10,000 in damages and losses, his or her employer would be on the hook for $30,000 if the teen was employed illegally (e.g. didn't have the required work permit).

Additionally, workers' compensation may not be required to pay for the damages in these cases, meaning injured teens can sue the employers directly rather than be subjected to the exclusive remedy rule. This may open the door to additional compensation that the teen would not have received from the insurance company, such as money for pain and suffering.

Be aware, though, this only applies if the teens didn't misrepresent their ages. If the person supplied credentials showing he or she was older (or younger) than his or her real age, this particular benefit may be forfeit.

Future Earning Capacity

Workers' compensation generally factors in a person's ability to earn future income when calculating settlements, but how it's factors varies depending on the state. Some states only take a few years into account, while others may consider how employees' disabilities will affect them for the rest of their working lives. Additionally, the amount is typically based on the adult's current income.

When it comes to minors, however, many states will use what those teens would've earned as adults rather than their current wages to calculate their future earnings potential. For instance, a teen is paid minimum wage for a job. If the company pays an adult a higher wage to do the same job, workers' comp will use the adult wage as a baseline for calculating future earning capacity.

Workers' comp may take quite a few things into consideration when calculating the teen's future earnings, however, such as the type of employment he or she may reasonably be eligible for and how his or her educational prospects may impact potential wages (e.g. college degree vs. GED). Also, some states will only consider future earning capacity if the teen is an apprentice or trainee.

Still, though, since teens often have 50 or 60 years of working life left, even a small amount spread over 5 to 6 decades can result in a significant award.

Additional Legal Protections

Civil law often treats minors differently than adults. For instance, minors can't enter legally binding contracts until they reach the age of majority. Because of this, workers' compensation typically provides additional legal protection for minor employees.

For example, some states require minors to be represented by a guardian during the entire claims process or settlement negotiations. Other states require the settlement to be approved by the workers' comp board, labor commission, or the court. These legal protections serve to prevent teens from being exploited by the process.

If you or your minor child was hurt on the job, contact a workers' compensation attorney at a place like Walz Law Office as soon as possible to protect your rights and increase the chances of winning your claim.