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Workers' compensation and undocumented workers

Most people believe that no matter what, a person injured on a job site will have medical care covered by workers' compensation. Thankfully, this belief is mostly accurate, as the state of North Carolina has progressive and inclusive laws regarding workers' compensation. Even if you or a loved one who was injured while working are undocumented workers, you may still be entitled to workers' compensation coverage for your medical care and ongoing bills as a result of the workplace injury.

Why are undocumented workers covered by workers' compensation?

The reasoning is simple enough: If employers didn't have to carry insurance to cover undocumented workers, sometimes called illegal aliens, that would incentivize employers to hire more undocumented workers for the hardest and most dangerous work, as they wouldn't be required to incur any expense if their undocumented workers are severely injured or killed while on the job.

Not only would this result in an increase in the intentional use of undocumented workers, it would also reduce employer contributions to workers' compensation insurance funds and create problems for documented workers, including citizens and legal residents, as they would represent a bigger expense in terms of tax and insurance liability for employers than undocumented workers would.

Additionally, undocumented workers being injured on the job site would still require medical care, which would place undue burden on state Medicaid programs and hospitals. Those bills would either be passed on to North Carolina taxpayers or go unpaid, forcing medical providers to take losses or be less generous with services for those who can not afford to carry private insurance.

Regardless of whether undocumented workers were injured in a factory or while working with machinery in an agricultural setting, they are as entitled to compensation as are any other workers in the state of North Carolina.

What to do if you're injured as an undocumented worker

If you or a loved one are injured at work and are working as an undocumented worker, the first and most important step you can take, other than seeking immediate medical attention, is to retain the services of a skilled personal injury attorney. Ideally, your attorney will have experience in both workers' compensation cases and cases involving undocumented workers, as there are many special considerations for these cases.

Some workers may fear that filing for workers' compensation may draw undue attention to their status as an undocumented worker, resulting in retaliatory reporting to INS or law enforcement. The best way to put those concerns to rest is to hire an attorney who will advocate for you or your loved one, while also working to prevent deportation or similar legal repercussions due to being an undocumented worker.

The sooner you begin working with an attorney to protect your rights as a worker in North Carolina, the better. Make sure that you receive the compensation you deserve for your workplace injuries by retaining an experienced workers' compensation attorney.

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