All employers in the state of Pennsylvania are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance to cover their employees in the event of a work accident, no matter how small the employer is. In fact, an employer can be subject to both civil and criminal penalties for failing to carry workers’ compensation insurance. Unfortunately, this threat does not prevent it from happening. When an employer does not carry workers’ compensation insurance, an injured worker has the option under the law to either sue the employer in tort or negligence or, pursue a workers’ compensation claim against the employer just as you would if they were insured. If you choose to do the latter, you will have to execute or perfect any judgement that you receive in workers’ compensation court in the Court of Common Pleas in order to try and recover the award. This will result in a rather complicated and lengthy process to try and get paid and, often times it results in no recovery because the employer is judgement proof (has no assets). You can only choose the other option of suing your employer civilly if you can prove that the employer’s negligence caused your injury. This is not always the case. In fact, most work injuries are the result of an accident and are not anyone’s fault. If you cannot prove that your employer’s negligence caused your injury, you cannot file a civil action against your employer if they were not insured for workers’ compensation purposes at the time of your work injury.
Generally speaking, if an employer has workers’ compensation insurance your only remedy is to file a workers’ compensation claim against your employer. Also, you cannot recover pain and suffering damages in a workers’ compensation claim like you can in a negligence lawsuit. You are only entitled to wage loss and medical benefits in workers compensation.
If your employer was not insured and you cannot show that your employer’s negligence caused your work injury, there’s still hope. You can file a workers’ compensation claim against the Uninsured Employer Guarantee Fund (UEGF). This is a special fund in the state of Pennsylvania that was created to provide workers’ compensation coverage to injured workers’ when their employer is not insured. The Fund essentially stands in the shoes of the uninsured employer and pays any wage loss and medical benefits that the injured worker is entitled to. The UEGF is funded by an assessment charged to every insurance carrier and self-insured employer who provides workers’ compensation insurance in the state of Pennsylvania. The Fund will continue paying the injured worker compensation once liability attaches until they prove that the injured worker is recovered from their injury or, recovered enough to return to work at the same pay, just like an insured employer. There are strict rules that apply to filing a claim against UEGF and, what you can and cannot recover from the Fund beyond wage loss and 2medical benefits, so it is a good idea to speak with an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer when you are faced with an uninsured employer.