If your employer does not have workers’ compensation insurance, you can still recover workers’ compensation benefits when injured on the job. The Uninsured Employer Guaranty Fund (“the Fund”) was created by the Pennsylvania Legislature in 2006 to cover payment of benefits for work-related injuries occurring on or after January 8, 2007 under the Workers’ Compensation Act or the Occupational Disease Act. Prior to the creation of the Fund, injured workers whose employer did not carry workers’ compensation frequently had no recourse in order to receive the compensation that they were entitled to under the Workers’ Compensation Act.
It should also be noted that, in addition to prompting the involvement of the Fund, an employer’s failure to carry workers’ compensation insurance is often a violation of both civil and criminal statutes. For example, the Workers’ Compensation Act provides that an employer who fails to cover an employee entitled to benefits with appropriate insurance is guilty of a misdemeanor of the third degree, with potential for a $2,500 fine and up to one year in prison. Further, if a court finds the failure to comply with this requirement to be intentional, the employer is guilty of a felony of the third degree, with potential for a $15,000 fine and up to seven years in prison.
The Fund pays workers’ compensation benefits to injured employees or dependents where the employer liable to pay those benefits is not insured or self-insured for workers’ compensation. If it is determined that benefits and associated costs are due and payable under the Workers’ Compensation Act or the Occupational Disease Act and the employer does not voluntarily accept and pay the benefits owed, the Fund will begin payment.
If your employer was not insured or self-insured on the date of your work-related injury, you are entitled to seek benefits from the Fund. However, prior to making a claim against the Fund you must provide notice by filing a completed Form LIBC-551 (Notice of Claim Against Uninsured Employer). You should file this form within 45 days from the date that you knew your employer was uninsured. Although failure to file this Notice within the 45 days does not bar the claimant from pursuing benefits from the Fund, it does delay the provision of compensation to the date that notice is given. This is a drastic consequence, which would remove the obligation to pay benefits relating to missed work or medical treatment incurred before filing the notice. Therefore, the timely filing of this form is of great consequence in order to preserve maximum benefits.
Twenty-one days after filing the Form LIBC-551, you should file a Form LIBC-550 (Claim Petition for Benefits from the Uninsured Employer Guaranty Fund). This form initiates the formal process by which your Claim Petition will be decided. The Petition will be assigned to a Workers’ Compensation Judge (“WCJ”) who will receive relevant evidence, conduct hearings, and eventually issue a decision determining whether you are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. The Fund will be represented in these proceedings by its own attorney, who has no association with either the Claimant or the Employer.
If you are injured at work and learn that your employer neither has workers’ compensation insurance, nor is self-insured, it is important to contact an experienced attorney as soon as possible in order to adequately protect, preserve, and vindicate your right to workers’ compensation benefits. The Law Offices of John D. Pallante, P.C. has over 25 years of experience litigating workers’ compensation matters and can guide you through this process. Please contact us via phone (215-985-0976) or visit our website (www.pallantelaw.com).