What If My Employer Doesn’t Have Workers Comp?

With limited exceptions, Pennsylvania requires employers to carry workers’ compensation insurance.

Employees will be happy to know that workers' comp coverage applies to those throughout their employment. But what if your employer doesn’t have workers’ comp?

First, your employer faces some harsh penalties. It’s considered a criminal offense where the employer faces fines up to $2,500 or a year in prison for each day the employer fails to provide coverage. Each day is considered a separate offense.

Second, suppose a court finds the lack of compliance intentional. In that case, the employer may face felony charges with fines up to $15,000 and seven years of imprisonment for each day they’ve intentionally violated the requirement.

So legally, it’s in a company’s best interest to carry workers comp. But what if your employer doesn’t have workers’ compensation and you’re injured? Other than talking with a work injury lawyer near you, where's that left you?

What Are Your Options with Employers Lacking Workers Comp Coverage?

The good news is that you do have options even if your employer doesn’t have workers’ compensation.

Option 1: Uninsured Employers Guaranty Fund (UEGF)

Many states have a fund to protect workers injured while working for an uninsured employer. Pennsylvania has the UEGF that allows you to file a claim. A workers’ compensation judge oversees your case, and the UEGF assigns a lawyer to defend your claim.

If your employer is uninsured, the UEGF holds them primarily liable, with the UEGF secondarily liable. Your employer then has 30 days to pay the money you’re owed.

Your employer is most likely not going to pay. So, the UEGF makes the payment you would have received from your employer for damages like medical bills, disability benefits, and lost wages.

Now, this approach has some downsides. And unlike the typical workers’ comp claim where you might consider hiring a workers comp attorney, with a UEGF filing, you’ll want a workers comp lawyer representing you.

First, the UEGF has limited financial resources because it’s state-funded. As a result, it could take months to receive payment.

Second, unlike an insurance company that can be penalized for failing to pay within a prescribed timeframe, the UEGF has no obligation.

And finally, the UEGF doesn’t have to pay annual interest on back benefits vs. an insurance company that does. So you’re beginning to see why a work injury lawyer makes sense.

By the way, you must file a claim within 45 days from the date you discover your employer is uninsured. Otherwise, your employer’s obligations cease.

Option 2: Personal Injury Lawsuit

If you decide against filing a UEGF claim, your next best option is to hire a personal injury lawyer and sue the employer. Even though injured employees typically can’t sue their employer for work-related injuries, most states, Pennsylvania included, make exceptions when employers don’t carry workers’ compensation.
One advantage to electing this option is seeking the total amount of your losses. Many states, for example, only pay two-thirds of a worker’s wage loss. Plus, you’ll receive no reimbursement for pain and suffering.

And that’s the other advantage to a suit; you can seek damages for pain and suffering, not to mention punitive damages. Pain and suffering cover not only the injury but also emotional distress. On the other hand, punitive damages reflect damages stemming from the employer’s misconduct. Neither of these damages can be collected through a workers’ compensation claim.

Although you can potentially collect more through a personal injury lawsuit, this approach has its downside. For starters, your case needs to go through the legal process. Unfortunately, that can lead to significant delays in getting payment, months or even years.

Plus, even if you win the personal injury suit, there’s no guarantee you’ll get paid. After all, if your employer fails to carry workers’ comp insurance, what’s to say they’ll pay compensation stemming from your lawsuit?

And yes, there’s the chance you could lose your lawsuit. Unlike workers’ compensation, a no-fault system, you’ll need to prove your employer was a fault for your injury. So, if you elect to take this route, it’s best to immediately talk with a work injury lawyer to start the process and ensure you take the proper steps to file a personal injury lawsuit.

Injured and Your Employer Doesn’t Have Workers’ Compensation?

Give us a call. Our workers’ comp lawyers will work with you to determine your best option for getting reimbursed for your injury. We also have personal injury lawyers on hand to support a potential lawsuit.
High Swartz is a long-standing law firm serving Bucks and Montgomery Counties clients. We offer various legal services to support you with almost any concern.

When Letters of Intent are Involved in Litigation

What is a Letter of Intent?

A letter of intent (LOI) is a document which states proposed terms for a final contract. Depending upon what is written, an LOI may be categorized as “binding” or “non-binding.”  This is often the threshold issue in litigation concerning letters of intent – whether or not the LOI may be considered to be a binding contract.

Frequently, purchase/sale negotiations are founded upon a letter of intent.  For purposes of this article, I am focusing on LOIs as they relate to real estate transactions.

Why the Details of Letters of Intent are Crucial

Even if non-binding, it may be difficult to vary the terms set forth in an LOI; accordingly, it is important to deal with all items of significance in the letter of intent. Failure to set forth important details can lead to difficulties later, for the following reasons:

  • The parties’ negotiating leverage will be reduced if key provisions such as purchase price, deposit amount, due diligence period, land development approvals, and other items of significance are not included in the letter of intent.
  • Misunderstandings and negotiations can be minimized, along with associated costs.

Binding or Non-Binding Letters of Intent

 Typically, the parties involved do not intend LOIs to be binding, but they may still be interpreted as such.

  • Binding Contract. In the absence of specific language, the courts may look to various factors, including the terms of the letter, the context of negotiations, and partial performance, to determine whether a letter of intent is binding.  A party who breaches such a binding agreement may be subject to specific performance or damages.
  • Obligation to Negotiate in Good Faith. Where a letter of intent contains such language as “make every reasonable effort to agree,” or an agreement to “negotiate only with the other party,” the courts may impose an obligation to negotiate, even if the letter states that it is “non-binding” or subject to a formal agreement.  Even if this standard does not lead to a finding that a final contract has been created, it may be held to bar a party from abandoning negotiations, or insisting on conditions that do not conform to the terms of the LOI.

Different Degrees of Value of Binding in Letters of Intent

As discussed above, there isn’t always a clear-cut standard to determine whether a letter of intent is binding or non-binding, but there are ways to express the intentions of the parties as one or the other.

  • A letter of intent may have legitimate, binding aspects to it, even though ultimate liability may be conditioned upon execution of formal documents.  For example, a statement that the property will be kept off the market during negotiations for a specified time period, and that the seller will not negotiate with another party during the same period, may serve both parties’ objectives.
  • In order to preserve the intention that a letter of intent not be binding, the letter should not only provide as such, but should further provide that it imposes no legal obligation to continue negotiations to reach agreement.  Alternatively the letter might provide that the parties are obligated to negotiate in good faith and the like, but that if no formal agreement is reached within a prescribed period of time, either party may terminate. Termination must be “without liability” of either party.
  • If it is intended that the letter be fully binding, it might provide that if the negotiations break down, a written position statement must be prepared by each side, which is then subject to arbitration using an identified standard agreement of sale form as guidance.  Although elementary from a legal perspective, it is important to remember that a document will not be enforced if it omits an essential part of the bargain.  Thus, if an LOI is to be enforceable, it should highlight all of the basic terms.

As negotiations for real estate transactions may be extended and costly, a letter of intent can serve as a useful tool to ensure everyone is on the same page. To review the structure of your LOI and avoid future headache, consult a real estate transaction attorney who specializes in business transactions.

Note:  The information above is general; we recommend that you consult with an attorney regarding your specific circumstances.  The content contained herein is not meant to be considered as legal advice or as a substitute for legal representation.

Elizabeth C. Early to Present at PBI Family Law Institute 2022

PBI's Family Law Institute 2022 is an interactive and virtual CLE known as a premier event for PA family law attorneys.

High Swartz family law attorney Elizabeth C. Early will present for during Day Two of the event on April 19th. Her panel will discuss recent appellate decisions with other presenters Adrienne Pierangeli, Kathleen O'Connor, Amanda Frett, Morgan Bonekovic, and Daniel Bell-Jacobs.

The second day of the Family law institute offers attorneys a choice in which sessions attorneys would like to attend. Ms. Early's panel consists of varying levels of attorney experience, and will offer pointers on how these recent appeals will affect the future of Pennsylvania Family law.

Other sessions in the Institute will delve into matters such as Do's and Don'ts of Surveilling your Spouse, Malpractice and Ethics in Family Law, Business Valuation in a divorce, Drafting Simple Settlement Agreements, and Parental Mental Health and Addiction Issues. Attorney Early has presented numerous times in the past for PBI. She most recently presented for the PBI's 2022 Parenting Coordination Boot Camp.

Chelsey A. Christiansen Selected as Treasurer of Montgomery Bar Association's Young Lawyer Section

High Swartz LLP of Montgomery County is pleased to announced that Family Law Attorney Chelsey Christiansen has been selected as the new Treasurer of the MBA YLS. The Montgomery Bar Association Young Lawyers Section allows members who are 40 and under and have practiced for at least 5 years to join. Per its bylaws, Chelsey’s selection as Treasurer will allow her to move up each year until she is Chair of the Section.

Established in 1885, the Montgomery Bar Association represents over 2000 legal professionals in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. As the third largest bar in Pennsylvania behind only Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, the MBA prides itself in its dedication to local communities. The Young Lawyers Section is no small part of that. The YLS encourages its members to join its sub-committees that work with establishing yearly programs such as the Mock Trial Competition, Law School Liaison, etc.

A family lawyer, Chelsey focuses on family and juvenile law, child custody, divorce, child support, and child advocacy. Ms. Christiansen is often court-appointed by Montgomery County Family Court judges to represent parents in need. She also works directly with Montgomery County Children & Youth Services and juvenile dependency court to prepare cases and treatment plans for those parents who may have lost custody.

In 2021, Chelsey appeared before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. After three months, she received the decision she and her client had advocated for throughout the nearly two-year appellate process. Representing "father," the appellee, she was able to obtain a consistent result – the vacating of a decree terminating the father's parental rights.

High Swartz Family Law Group sponsors MCAP’s 1st Annual Family Day at Elmwood Park Zoo

The family law attorneys at High Swartz LLP were pleased to be a sponsor at MCAP’s first ever Family Day held on Saturday, April 2, 2022 at Elmwood Park Zoo in Montgomery County, PA. High Swartz sponsored the Zoo's vintage-inspired carousel, which allowed families to enjoy free rides during the event. Family Day also featured a picnic dinner with ice cream for dessert, fun at their Thomas J. Kimmel playground, face-paintings, even giraffe feedings.

"The MCAP event in honor of Child Abuse Prevention month was a wonderful experience for all who attended. It was a treat to bring my son to Elmwood Zoo to celebrate all of the good work of MCAP. It was a glorious, sunny day—a beautiful day that was emblematic of all that MCAP represents."

Missy Boyd
Montgomery County family law attorney
Chair of High Swartz LLP's family law group

Elmwood Park Zoo, founded in 1924, is home to red pandas, jaguars, giraffes, zebras, and an expansive eagle habitat. Since 2003, the zoo has housed America Bison, which in 2016 were recognized as the national mammal of the United States, thanks to the National Bison Legacy Act. Elmwood Park zoo is also the adopted home of Stella, the Temple Owl mascot.

Montgomery Child Advocacy Project, or MCAP for short, started in 2004 with a mission to prevent and ultimately end child neglect and child abuse in Montgomery County, PA, a suburb of Philadelphia. The Project trains volunteer family law attorneys to represent children in any legal facet with the county. The Project has over 125 attorneys to advocate on their roster who volunteer over 7,400 hours each year to the children they serve.

The event was one of MCAP's activities in observance of National Child Abuse Prevention Month in April.

Sean Boyd, Missy's son, poses by the carousel during Family Day at Elmwood Park Zoo, hosted by MCAP.

Family Lawyer vs. Divorce Lawyer

Your marriage is on the rocks. It’s time to find a lawyer near you to represent you in what’s beginning to look like an ugly divorce. But who should you consult? Which lawyer is better, a divorce lawyer vs. a family lawyer.

Truth be told, it doesn’t matter. Either lawyer can represent you effectively. Moreover, the reality is that a divorce lawyer practices family law but focuses on divorce.

What’s a Family Law Firm?

A family law firm focuses on numerous family matters. Those matters include divorce but extend to other family legal practice areas:

By the way, subsets exist even under each of the above subsets. For example, you’ll see specializations such as guardianships, child adoption, or mediation.

So, a divorce lawyer represents someone as a subset of family law. In short, a divorce lawyer is a family lawyer focused on divorce. Other attorneys may focus their attention and expertise on different subsets of family law presented above. Ultimately, however, each attorney is also a family lawyer.

As such, many family lawyers can represent you in all areas relating to family matters. But it’s best to speak with a family law attorney more skewed toward your specific area of need. If you’re faced with a child support issue, a lawyer specializing in child support will be better versed to help you.

The same holds for law firms in general. Although many firms house a variety of lawyers and attorneys for family law concerns, some family law firms specialize in a single area, for example, divorce. Others may focus their legal practice solely on domestic abuse, for instance.

Choosing a Divorce Lawyer Versus a Family Lawyer

So does it matter which lawyer you choose?

If you have a simple divorce without children, shared wealth, or joint interest in a business, a specialized divorce lawyer should do the trick.

However, a family law attorney may be better suited if you have custody and child support concerns, marital agreements that require review, and other problems. That attorney will have the means to represent these other matters if they crop up down the road.

Regardless of which flavor you select, make sure the lawyer you hire fully comprehends Pennsylvania state laws. Laws surrounding the above topics may vary by state. So, it’s essential that your lawyer, divorce or family, understand those state laws and how they may impact your case.

Family Lawyers Near You

Family law represents a chief area of expertise at our law offices representing clients in Bucks, Montgomery, and surrounding counties, including Philadelphia.

So if you need a divorce lawyer and only a divorce lawyer, we have attorneys on staff at our family law firm to address that specific need. But, we also have attorneys versed in numerous other specific areas of family law capable of addressing broader concerns.

More important, as a full-service law firm, we can address numerous other concerns outside family law. For example, we have attorneys specializing in real estate law, personal injury, estate planning, and even immigration law. Think of our firm as a one-stop-shop for all your legal needs.

Plus, know that U.S. News cited the local attorneys that will represent you as Best Lawyers in America. Fourteen High Swartz attorneys captured that accolade. Moreover, our firm received a nod as one of the Best Law Firms, including recognition as a Metropolitan Tier 1 family law firm.