Workers' Compensation Basics
Workers’ compensation insurance is a policy purchased by a business to cover their employees in case they are injured or get sick because of work. Usually, you’ll just hear it referred to as “workers’ comp.”
Workers’ comp is a pretty important coverage, because it protects workers from financial hardship because of work-related injuries and protects businesses from being sued. It’s a crucial safety net for everyone, which is why it’s required just about everywhere.
Workers’ comp covers any illness or injury related to work. For example, if an employee gets burned by toxic chemicals while cleaning out a closet at their job, workers’ comp would pay benefits to help offset any financial losses caused by that injury.
Here are the five basic benefits workers’ comp can provide:
- Medical care covers any expenses for the injury or illness so that the employee doesn’t have to pay for their own care.
- Temporary disability benefits can help replace lost wages while an employee recovers from an injury.
- Permanent disability benefits can provide ongoing financial support if an employee doesn’t recover completely from an injury or illness.
- Job displacement benefits can help pay for job retraining or career education if an employee can’t return to their old job.
- Death benefits help pay for funeral expenses and can provide payments to the dependents of an employee who dies from a job-related injury or illness.
Workers’ comp will apply even if the accident was an employee’s fault, but it probably won’t pay out if an employee was breaking the law or violating a clear safety regulation at the time of the accident. (Learn more about what workers’ comp does (and doesn’t) cover here.)
Basically, any business which has at least one employee (although this requirement varies by state). In California, all employers are required to purchase workers’ comp — even if they have only one employee.
Out-of-state employers may need to purchase workers' comp coverage in California, too, if they have employees who work here regularly, or if they enter into an employment contract in the state. (Get more information about specific workers’ comp requirements here.)
Probably not. Sole proprietors in California aren’t required to get workers’ comp.
That said, if a sole proprietor of a business hires help for any length of time, they’ll probably need to get workers’ comp coverage for that. For example, a California business owner who hires extra help during the holiday season would need to get workers’ comp to cover the temporary workers. (Find more information about that situation here.)
The price of your workers’ comp is based mostly on the size of your payroll. Typically, a small business owner with a few employees can expect to pay around $2,000 to $3,000 a year in workers’ comp premiums. As employee headcount goes up, premiums will also go up.
In California, the average cost of workers’ comp is about $3 per $100 of payroll. If your business is in a more dangerous industry (like construction), you’ll probably pay more than that.
Your workers' comp premium is calculated as a percentage of your payroll. (For example, you might pay $3.28 per $100 of payroll.) This means the amount you pay for workers' comp will increase as your payroll gets larger and decrease as your payroll gets smaller.
Of course, the exact percentage you pay will depend on your industry, the kinds of jobs your employees do, your safety record, and your location. A factory will probably pay more for workers' comp than a clothing store, for example, since factory workers file more workers' comp claims than retail workers.
A workers’ comp premium audit is the process which verifies that a company paid the correct amount for workers’ comp during the preceding year. In an audit, your insurer will look at your payroll and other financial records and (if necessary) correct the price of your workers’ comp accordingly. After an audit, you may get a refund. Or, you may need to pay a little more.
For most small businesses, audits aren’t really a big deal and take place via mail (the insurer is mostly interested in the size of your payroll).
The most common reason is that your payroll went up. The bigger the payroll, the higher the workers' comp payment. You can learn more about that here.
Of course, it might also be that your rate went up because you filed a claim, that your business changed in a significant way, or simply that rates went up for all businesses in your industry.
First things first: make sure your employee gets medical attention. If the injury requires emergency treatment, get your team member to the nearest doctor as soon as you can. (If it's not an ER situation, you’ll have your employee choose a provider from Markel's Medical Provider Network. You can find more information on this in your online portal.)
Then, if your policy is with Markel Insurance, call the ClaimLine reporting service (888-500-3344) immediately to report the injury. Once you make the report, an adjuster will be in touch soon to help everyone through the rest of the process. (And, hey, you can always call Huckleberry for help at any point. That’s what we’re here for.)
Workers’ comp limits are decided by the state, not by businesses or insurers. So there are really no decisions to make and every workers’ comp provider is selling basically the same thing. When you purchase workers’ comp, you automatically get the coverage mandated by your state. (Read more about that here.)
At Huckleberry, we differentiate by offering the only fully digital policy on the market. That means you can spend less time filling out paper forms and more time building your business.
There is no universal limit to the amount that can be paid to an injured employee. Instead, the amount is determined by the workers’ comp board in each state. The amount is usually determined by the employee’s salary and the severity of their injury or condition.
In any case, you don’t really have to worry about this. Your state has already made the decision and you’ll automatically get the correct coverage whenever you buy workers’ comp.
Nothing. We never charge broker fees.
Our policies are issued by Markel Insurance Company, a publicly-traded and respected insurer with decades of experience. Markel has ultimate responsibility for paying out all claims (although you will always have a friendly Huckleberry agent to help you through the process).
Buying a Policy
Nope. The quick estimate that you see at the beginning is just that — an estimate. It’s there to give you a general idea of what your insurance might eventually cost.
In order to see a verified quote, you’ll have to enter some more information. Then, after we understand a little more about your business, we’ll be able to quote you an exact price. (When you see an option to buy, you’ll know your quote is 100% ready.)
Sure. That said, 1099 workers need to purchase their own insurance coverage. Our carrier partner may ask for proof of this insurance, either now or at some point during the lifetime of your policy.
Most customers can get coverage in as little as five to seven minutes. Once in a while, our insurance partner may decide to review your case in a little more detail. When this happens, our usual turnaround time is about 30 minutes during business hours (so maybe a day or two longer if you’re applying at midnight on a Saturday).
You can pay for your policy using your bank account or credit card. For bank account payments, we have a direct integration with most major US banks — no need to look up your routing number.
We’ve designed Huckleberry to save you time and to minimize the amount of information you need to gather.
To do that, we integrate directly with a number of business intelligence databases to auto-populate much of your application form (think your business address, telephone number, FEIN, etc.).
If you’re already an established business, you’ll just review the information we gather, answer a couple of additional questions, and then tap “Submit” to get a quote. (If you’re brand new, no worries. It’s still really quick.)
A lapse in coverage doesn’t necessarily mean that your application will be denied. Be aware, though: our carrier partner may need to request some additional documentation before they can approve a quote.
Absolutely. You’ll choose the start date of your policy before you complete your purchase—it just needs to be within 90 days. Keep in mind that you’ll pay for your first month on the day you purchase (even if it doesn’t start until later).
Sure. You’ll need to choose a start date to see a quote, but you can always change it later by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
With Huckleberry, everything happens online.
Once you purchase workers’ comp coverage, you’ll sign your policy digitally. (All company officers that have decided to decline coverage are required to sign documentation at that point, too. So give them a heads-up that they’ll be getting an email!) Once all the signatures have been received, your policy will be in force.
By the way, you should be sure to sign as soon as possible. If signatures aren’t submitted within a week after policy purchase, coverage may be withdrawn.
You can download your policy from our online portal within 24-48 hours of purchasing. The first page of the policy document (called the declarations page) can be used as proof of insurance.
If you need your certificate sooner (or if you want to add a specific certificate holder), just email email@example.com. We’ll happily send it to you immediately.