All too often in the workers’ compensation field, fraud is associated with the injured worker. There are cases of workers’ compensation insurance fraud in which workers exaggerate or create their injuries in order to take advantage of benefits afforded to injured workers. Fraud, committed by the employer, is rarely mentioned when discussing the subject of workers’ compensation; however, last week, one story regarding fraud on behalf of the employer made headlines.
Owners and executives of a large general contracting firm in Deerfield Beach were arrested for racketeering and obtaining property by fraud. Richard and Rice, the general contracting firm, used over 20 shell companies to make it appear to the government they were complying with state and federal workers’ compensation and payroll regulations, when, in fact, they were leaving their workers without proper coverage. Because they did not pay insurance premiums and payroll taxes like they were required to do, they ended up being able to submit lower bids for jobs, and save the money they should have been paying the government. Richard and Rice gleaned nearly $17 million from their unlawful dealings.
While their actions created an awful exploitation of the employees of Richard and Rice, the arrests made for racketeering and fraud are merely indicative of a growing problem in South Florida, and even in the Tampa Bay area. Crimes in which employees suffer and employers get away with not providing them appropriate workers’ compensation coverage, while pocketing large sums of money occur regularly in the construction industry.
Employers often attempt to avoid paying the large premiums workers’ compensation insurance companies charge. They give false reports on employees and wages so they appear to have a smaller payroll to avoid paying taxes and higher premiums. They utilize shell companies, like Richard and Rice did, to avoid paying for workers’ compensation insurance coverage, which leaves workers who happen to get injured on the job with no coverage to assist them in getting back on their feet after an injury. When an injured worker is denied workers’ compensation benefits because of fraud on the part of their employer, tax payers end up having to take care of the injured worker through programs like Social Security disability and welfare/unemployment programs funded at the state and federal levels.
This recent indictment and the prevalence of corrupt employers attempting to skirt laws in place to protect injured workers proves it is now time to attack fraud within the workers’ compensation system. It is time to begin enforcing the laws and regulations on the employers (which have been in place for decades), rather than attempting to find fault on behalf of the injured worker in order to avoid providing them the benefits they deserve. If you or your loved one has suffered a work-related accident, call the experienced attorneys at Lancaster & Eure for your free consultation (941) 365-7575, or feel free to contact us online.