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What is Foreign Voluntary Worker’s Compensation?

Foreign Voluntary Worker’s Compensation (FVWC) is an insurance coverage that provides additional benefits to the standard domestic worker’s compensation policies.

Many state workers’ compensation do not cover injuries that occur out of the country. These injuries may include illness, contraction of diseases, or other bodily harm caused by war, terrorism, or even piracy.

FVWC, however, often offers extra benefits like the following:

  • Endemic disease coverage
  • 24-hour coverage
  • Repatriation expense- Pays for the cost of bringing home an ill or injured worker back to the U.S. for treatment, and funeral expenses/transport if applicable.

If an employee is hurt overseas and his/her employer does not have FVWC, then the employer could be liable for a lawsuit. It is for both the employer and employee’s benefit that there is a FVWC policy in place.

Who Needs Foreign Voluntary Worker’s Compensation?

Any employee who leaves the country on business for a period of time is in need of some form of foreign voluntary worker’s compensation. There are three main types of individuals who would require FVWC:

  • U.S. employees traveling outside the U.S.
  • International employees living or working outside of their assigned countries
  • Foreign nationals on U.S. assignment

Lower quality health care in some countries puts these individuals at a higher risk for injury or illness. Because standard workers comp often only covers employees who are “temporarily” stationed in another country and does not specify what constitutes as “temporary,” these individuals are many times not covered, and so additional coverage is necessary. Another reason these types of employees require FVWC is because state worker’s comp usually only covers employees during standard working hours (8-5). Any injury occurring outside of these hours won’t be covered. When an employee is in another country, injury can happen both in and outside of working hours.

Are You Getting Benefits Under the Foreign Voluntary Worker’s Compensation?

Many overseas Jones Act workers will begin to receive benefits under the FVWC. Unfortunately, some of these workers believe that their only rights fall under the FVWCsince they believe they were “foreign workers” at the time of their injury.

If you work overseas but live in the United States, it is very likely that you can file a claim under the Jones Act for any type of injury or accident which may have occurred on an overseas oil rig. The fact that your company may be paying you compensation benefits under the FVWC does not necessarily mean that you are limited to collecting these benefits. Indeed, these benefits may be a small portion of what you would be entitled to under the Jones Act. Most lawyers have never heard of the FVWC and they may mistakenly tell you that they cannot help you or assist you with your claim. A good maritime lawyer will explore with you the fact that you were working overseas and any possible claims you may have under the Jones Act.

FVWC vs. State Worker’s Compensation

Both Foreign Voluntary Worker’s Compensation and State Workers’ Comp have different benefits and policies depending on the insurance company and the state of the worker’s comp.

Each state sets its own workers’ compensation policies. See below for a list of links to each state’s department that handles workers’ comp. In most cases, state workers’ comp takes into account medical bills and lost wages for injured workers. Even if the employee is at fault for their injury, they still receive workers’ comp in exchange for giving up their right to sue their employer.

State workers’ comp usually won’t cover accidents that occur outside of working hours and outside of the country (or state of coverage). FVWC, though, will cover injuries out of the country or out of normal working hours.

State workers’ comp also does not cover injuries that do not arise directly out of a work exposure. FVWC, on the other hand, often has policies that will provide coverage for injuries that take place outside of work, such as protection against endemic diseases.

While FVWC will many times cover the cost of transporting an injured employee back to the U.S., state workers’ comp will not. FVWC will also cover injuries incurred en route to the job site; workers’ comp will not.

These are just some of the many differences between FVWC and state workers’ comp. For more details, consult your state’s workers’ compensation department and the insurance company providing the FVWC.

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