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I work for a small company , under 50 employees. I was injured in an auto accident. If I go on disability, does it mean COBRA?

North Brunswick, NJ |

I work for a small company... Under 50 employees!! The day I raised the possibility of going out on disability, my employer informed me that I must go on COBRA at my own expense. This perplexes me--I'm still technically still 'employed' even if I'm out on disability... doesn't COBRA kick in when you're 'Unemployed'?

I understand when you work for a small company, any leave may trigger COBRA (as we're NOT protected by FMLA). However, when our company writes proposals to bid on projects, we often disclose 50+ employees... I don't think they can have it both ways can they? I know this because I write the proposals...

Also, do I have any protection on the state level?

Thank you in advance for any advice!!

1. injury was NOT work related. 2. I've been employed by this small private company for 13 consecutive years. 3. I typically do not use up all of my sick days in any given year. 4. my job title = 'director'

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Attorney answers 3


I'm sorry you are in this position. I would suggest that you retain a lawyer immeidately to handle your personal injury case. Don't try to do this by yourself. Ask that lawyer to help you coordinate your benefits - including health, disability, and other insurance.

It sounds like you could really use the help and peace of mind. Good luck.


There are quite a few things going on here. I do think you need to consult an attorney as soon as possible to sort through these issues.

That being said, you may have a personal injury claim, a workers' compensation claim (if you were on the job when you were in the accident), a short and/or long term disability claim depending if you have those coverages, and possibly a Social Security disability claim depending on the severity of your injuries and how long your doctors anticipate you will be out of work.

If your health insurance coverage ends with your employer you may be eligible for COBRA. I don't have enough details to answer your questions regarding COBRA and at what point you might be eligible. Employer's have different policies about when your health insurance coverage ends should you go out on disability - some employers terminate a person's position and their health insurance almost immediately while other employers will hold that person's position and keep them eligible for continued health insurance benefits. Your HR department should hopefully be able to provide further information on those points.


COBRA "kicks in" when you have a qualifying event that results in a loss of coverage. While termination of employment is a qualifying event, a reduction in hours that results in your loss of eligibility under the employer sponsored health plan would also be a COBRA qualifying event. Because there is no FMLA leave (which requires an employer to provide coverage during any FMLA leave period), they are not required to provide employer-paid coverage. I am not sure if there is any state protection in New Jersey, but generally state continuation laws require you to pay the full premium for coverage.

The counting of employees for purposes of FMLA coverage is governed by rules that may be different than the rules regarding counting employees for purposes of project bidding. If you think the company may be subject to the FMLA entitling you to more protection, you should ask your employer for evidence that the FMLA does not apply to the Company.