Injured Workers Have Only 45 Days to Notify the Fund of an Uninsured Employer, Or They Won’t Receive Workers’ Comp Benefits

When we represent injured workers, we make sure that we notify the right parties so that our clients right to receive wage losses and payment for medical care is protected. A new Commonwealth Court opinion highlights why. Although injured workers have 3 years to file a Claim Petition, a literal reading of the Act gives them only 45 days to notify the Uninsured Employers Guaranty Fund (UEGF) of a claim. This requirement is absurdly stringent, and can easily be used to prevent injured workers from being compensated when their employers ignore their obligation to purchase workers’ compensation insurance. We have seen many employers who don’t have insurance and understand how to deal with the UEGF.

Consequently, injured workers (and the lawyers who represent them) must be very careful. If the injured workers (or their lawyers) don’t notify the UEGF within 45 days of learning that their employers did not have workers’ compensation insurance, the workers will not be entitled to benefits from the UEGF. In Pa. Uninsured Employers Guaranty Fund v. WCAB, the Commonwealth Court ruled that under Section 1603(b) of the Workers’ Compensation Act, an injured worker must notify the UEGF “within 45 days after the worker knew that the employer was uninsured” in order to receive benefits from the Fund. Although the Court liberally interpreted the date that the claimant learned that his employer did not have workers’ compensation insurance, the Court also implicitly affirmed that a claimant who fails to provide notice within the statutory 45-day requirement is not entitled to benefits from the Fund.

Many lawyers don’t know about this requirement, however. And it is important to be sure that proper notice is provided, not merely a letter. Under the Act, “Notice to the Fund shall consist of completing and mailing the form designated as ‘Notice of Claim Against Uninsured Employer’ (Notice) to the Department of Labor and Industry (Department) at the address listed on the form. The Department may reject any incomplete Notice.” Failure to serve the notice within the prescribed time is likely to result in the denial of benefits (wage losses and medical expenses) to your clients.

Of note, the Court declined to address whether untimely notice to the Fund should delay rather than forever bar an injured worker’s right to recover from the Fund. Thus, counsel should err on the side of caution and provide notice to the Fund immediately.

Click here to read the Opinion in Pa. UEGF v. WCAB.

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