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Jonathan Rosenfeld

October 5, 2023

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If a United States worker is employed overseas by a domestic corporation or on a business trip, employers may choose to purchase additional coverage for covered employees in a foreign voluntary workers’ compensation policy (FVWC).

This policy would cover workers in foreign countries who are overseas for more than just temporary assignments. FVWC policies would also cover things other than work injuries, such as endemic diseases. It is prudent for companies that have workers overseas to purchase FBWC coverage.

Read on for the details on foreign voluntary workers’ compensation (FVWC) insurance; employers’ obligations to provide it and employees’ legal rights to pursue it.

What Is Foreign Workers’ Compensation Insurance?

Foreign voluntary workers’ compensation (FVWC) insurance covers employees abroad and provides benefits when they suffer work-related injuries.

Workers hired who suffer occupational injuries outside of the United States may or may not be covered by their company’s existing workers’ compensation policy. Most state laws apply workers’ compensation coverage to work-related injuries abroad.

However, there are other types of hazards that are not necessarily part of the employee’s actual job. There are numerous threats that are specific to international employees. FVWC policies can fill some of the gaps in traditional workers’ compensation policies.

Workers outside the US may need Foreign Voluntary Workers Comp insurance

What Is Covered by FVWC Insurance?

Foreign voluntary workers’ compensation insurance covers many of the same things as domestic workers’ compensation policies.

Here is what is covered under a workers’ compensation policy:

  • Medical expenses
  • Lost wages (a portion of wages, up to a statutory limit
  • Vocational training if the employee needs to learn how to do a new job
  • Funeral and burial expenses

There are additional things that FVWC may cover that are specific to overseas work in different environments:

  • Evacuation expenses – the injured employee may need to be evacuated and repatriated to the United States from the foreign county
  • Endemic diseases – FVWC coverage may include medical care for diseases that are endemic to the country and area where the worker is employed (even if the domestic policy does not cover endemic diseases)
  • Medical monitoring – Because of the unique local environment, a worker may need special monitoring of their health condition.

In addition, a domestic policy will not cover international employees who are not legal residents of the United States.

US companies could find themselves hauled into court in foreign countries if they do not have FVWC coverage.

How Does Foreign Workers Comp Differ From Standard?

The coverage under foreign voluntary workers’ compensation is more broad than standard workers’ compensation coverage. The policy applies to more people, and it covers more potential harms. Those injured abroad can expect broader coverage beyond just work-related injuries.

There are other dangers outside of just the work environment. United States workers could be in danger in a foreign country, due to things like crime and natural disasters.

Standard workers comp policies will only cover work activities during work hours. An FVWC would operate 24 hours per day to protect the US employee in the foreign country. For example, if they were injured in an attack while going on personal trips, they would be covered by FVWC.

Things that are automatically excluded under domestic policies may be covered by FVWC. This policy can operate as sort of a supplemental coverage that protects the company.

FVWC in the State of Illinois

State laws (including those in Illinois [1]) allow workers abroad to be covered by the existing workers’ compensation policy for a limited amount of time; i.e. 90 days. This coverage is enough to protect workers who are on business travel overseas.

However, if the employee is based overseas for an extended period of time, they may not be covered by workers’ compensation. It may be unfair to make the insurance company cover risks they did not anticipate when they wrote and priced the policy.

The employing company could be in for a bad surprise when their employee files a claim that is denied. Then, the employee could look to come after the employer in a personal injury lawsuit.

Workers abroad can be covered by workers comp for 90 days

Why Employers Should Consider FVWC Insurance in a Foreign Country

FVWC coverage is not extremely expensive, but it can limit the employers’ liability if there is an injury outside the employee’s home country.

If the employee is not covered for things like medical bills and emergency medical flights, the company could be liable in a lawsuit. The company could also be liable under the laws of the foreign jurisdiction when a local national suffers a work-related injury, and there is no workers comp coverage.

Companies that send workers to foreign countries for things like business travel, and those who employ workers overseas, need to consider their own risk management. FVWC insurance is an investment that can protect companies in unpredictable circumstances.

Who Does Foreign Workers Comp Apply To?

Foreign workers’ compensation can apply to the following people:

  • Local nationals – US companies often hire citizens of the country where the operations are because they do not need to pay relocation expenses, and they may be able to pay a lower wage.
  • Third-country nationals – Companies could employ third-country nationals in other foreign countries because it is less expensive.
  • Ex-pats – US employees could have relocated overseas while working for a US employer. They would be out of the country for an extended period of time or permanently.
  • Volunteers – Non-employees may perform tasks for the business of their own volition and without compensation.
  • Independent contractors (if the employer chooses, since independent contractors are not usually covered by workers comp).

Filing an FVWC Claim

There are many complexities involved in filing a claim under foreign workers’ compensation insurance. If you have been injured outside of your home country, you may need legal help, both in filing a claim and negotiating coverage. There are additional complexities in a foreign claim that you may not face when filing for a domestic work-related injury.

The workers comp attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers can help you navigate the process of filing an FVWC claim. Send us a message online or call us today at (888) 424-5757. We work for you on a contingency basis, meaning that you do not need to pay us right off the bat.

Resources: [1] Illinois General Assembly

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