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.
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.
Nearly one-quarter of U.S. small businesses closed during the pandemic's peak in May 2020. Many of them from legal issues that could have been prevented.
Common Small Business Legal Issues
Small businesses face many challenges, especially in an economic climate ravaged by the pandemic—many closed shops in the last two years. Issues small businesses face today include financing, cash flow, management, credit access, and more. Many of those issues will involve the legal system. So let's look at some of the most common small business legal issues that require support from business lawyers.
Before doing so, it's worth pointing out how vital small businesses are to the economy. First, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) defines a small business as an organization with fewer than 500 employees. However, most small businesses employ fewer than 100 people. For example, 88.1% of small businesses employ fewer than 20 people.
Small Businesses Help Drive the Economy
As the saying goes, they may be small, but they're mighty. These businesses, numbering some 32.5 million organizations, employ 47.3% of the American workforce. Not too long ago, that number was closer to 52%.
In addition, since 2000, small businesses have driven 65.1% of net new job creation. Plus, they create 1.5 million jobs annually on average.
Unfortunately, 20% of small businesses fail in the first year. Moreover, nearly 50% fail within the first five years of operation, mainly due to a lack of market demand.
The Threat of Legal Action
A study by the SBA found that up to 53% of small businesses deal with lawsuits annually. Still another study presented that 43% of small businesses faced the threat of being sued. As a result, for small business owners, it's essential to have expert legal representation from a business lawyer near you.
On top of that, those lawsuits are expensive. According to the SBA, litigation costs range from a low of $3,000 to a high of $150,000. As a result, as many as 95% of lawsuits get settled before trial. For many business owners, it's less painful to reach an agreement than face litigation costs and attorney fees. Breach of contract (31.4%) represents the most common lawsuit filed. So, if you own a business, make sure you have a paper trail supporting your negotiations. Even more important, make sure a qualified business lawyer executes that paperwork.
Interestingly, depending on the size of your organization, you're more likely to face specific kinds of legal issues requiring the support of attorneys or business lawyers near you. Here's what a study by Kingston University on The Legal Needs of Small Business found:
Impacts of Legal Issues on Your Small Business
In the wake of legal actions, small businesses endure many outcomes, none good. Yet, many business owners view hiring a local lawyer as a last resort, with many owners electing to handle things themselves. Looking at the outcomes, it's likely they would have faced better results working with business lawyers.
Among those outcomes:
Loss of income (25.6%)
Loss of customer (9.2%)
Additional costs (8.8%)
Inability to complete work scheduled (8.7%)
Damage to reputation (8%)
Damage to a relationship with another business (7.4%)
Failure to take on new work (5.2%)
Not surprisingly, some issues resulted in a change of ownership or company structure.
6 Common Small Business Legal Issues
So let's get to it. What types of legal concerns should you expect if you're running a small business? Although contracts and taxes comprise more than half of small business legal issues, you'll encounter more. So, make sure you have a good business lawyer on speed dial.
1. Business Formation
It all starts here. Business formation significantly impacts your liabilities and profitability. Each business structure – LLC, S Corp, Partnership, or Corporation – has benefits and drawbacks. How you form your business determines your liability, tax payments, and other details for running your business.
For example, as a sole proprietor, you and your business are one. So if your company gets sued, your assets are at risk.
Sure, you can form your business using a website. But at this critical step, it pays to work with a business attorney to get the job done right. After all, you're forming your business and want to get off on the right foot. Moreover, if you do your homework, that business lawyer likely becomes your trusted advisor as you advance your business and avoid legal issues for your small business down the road.
Do you know the government restrictions for licensing? If you're like most people, probably not. Costs and requirements vary based on location (a good reason to have a lawyer versed in PA laws). Plus, regulations cover stipulations for each business type. Therefore, they vary based on size, type, and business location. Moreover, they're impacted by the goods or services you provide.
However, if you fail to license your business correctly, you'll likely face some hefty fines or fees. Worse still, your business could be closed. That's why it's wise to avoid licensing concerns by consulting with a business lawyer.
Contracts drive business. And there's a good reason you often hear the phrase; get it in writing. Unfortunately, too many small business owners rely on ambiguous contracts or, worse still, no contract. More than 37% of legal issues arise from contract issues.
Relying on self-serve internet contracts doesn't adequately cover potential loopholes. A business lawyer can draft contracts for your small business that keep you out of hot water and avoid legal issues.
You must tailor every contract to the condition and requirements of the agreement. Moreover, they need to be ironclad. That holds whether you're executing a real estate agreement, employee contract, or franchise agreement.
So, work with a contract or business lawyer to review any contract, draft original contracts, or address contract disputes. Never, and we mean never, enter into a contract with another party sans a legally-binding agreement, preferably drafted by an attorney or lawyer.
If you're going to own and operate a business, you will pay taxes, both federal and state. But know this – tax laws get complicated. And they present an ongoing potential legal issue for any small business. So you need to retain the services of an accounting professional or tax attorney to avoid issues. They can help address what taxes you're required to pay, when to file, how to make payments, and more.
5. Employee Issues
Where to start? Employee issues present significant risks for small businesses. For instance, many companies fail to acquire appropriate documentation from employees. Still, others don't take the time to draft good handbooks and policies for employees.
Those policies prove helpful for disciplinary, overtime disputes, and termination issues. But, again, a business lawyer ensures you'll have the appropriate documentation.
In Pennsylvania, small business owners need to be concerned about Wage Payment and Collection Laws (WPCL). Otherwise, they could face liabilities leading to litigation, as PA has one of the strongest laws in the country.
For small businesses facing stiff competition or having proprietary knowledge, non-solicitation agreements are critical. For example, you need to ensure employees face the consequences of moving to another company and handing out customer lists. Or for starting their own business and using your knowledge to do so.
Talk to an employment lawyer about the ins and outs of your small business to make sure you are covered with rock-solid employee agreements that avoid legal issues.
You even face concerns about employee misclassification. For instance, classifying someone as an independent contractor may cause backlash from the Federal Department of Labor.
We haven't even mentioned legal concerns surrounding discrimination or harassment. Remote workforces bring additional challenges to these areas. Employment lawyers or business lawyers have the expertise to address them accordingly.
Again, you can elect to handle these above concerns yourself or by downloading internet documents. But you owe it to yourself and the well-being of your business to consult and work with a nearby business lawyer from a reputable law firm that understands PA laws.
6. Intellectual Property
It would help if you protected your IP, lest another party steals your name or copies your intellectual property. However, independent of safeguarding your property, you need to ensure you don't overstep IP law and accidentally infringe on a trademark by failing to conduct thorough research. A trademark or business lawyer has access to appropriate resources to handle searches and ensure you avoid legal ramifications.
We touched on how employees might pilfer proprietary knowledge and give it to a competitor. And that raises this point – too many small businesses fail to take care of their intellectual property covering copyrights, patents, and trademarks.
Ready to Hire a Business Lawyer?
Starting your own business is risky to start. Remember, 50% of startups go out of business within five years. In addition, circumstances outside your control make it even more challenging, like a pandemic. So why add more risks to your venture by not hiring an experienced business lawyer to support your company?
Our law firm serves clients in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and the mid-Atlantic region. Our attorneys and lawyers have experience in numerous areas critical to running a successful business – employment law, IP law, workers' compensation, franchise law, and more. And if you ever need it, we're also experienced litigators.
Don't make a critical mistake launching your business. Hire a business lawyer. There's no better way to ensure your company gets off to the right start to avoid small business legal issues.
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.
We're back! High Swartz is excited to announce we'll once again be hosting our Annual Office Picnic during the Doylestown Memorial Day Parade! The picnic will start at 10am on Monday, May 30, 2022 and feature good eats, good beverages, good vibes, and a great parade!
"We are pleased to be in a position to host our 10th Annual Memorial Day Open House. We are privileged to have our office and grounds located directly on the parade route for the longest continuously running Memorial Day Parade in the nation. Memorial Day is both a somber and an exciting day for the Doylestown community and we are grateful to be able to participate."
Tom Panzer, High Swartz Doylestown Partner
The law office picnic started years back when the firm was known as McNamara, Bolla, & Panzer P.C. Since then, we’ve welcomed many past and present clients, family, and friends to join us in celebrating the unofficial start of summer. The Doylestown, PA tradition is the oldest Memorial Day Parade in the United States and honors American veterans that lost their lives in defense of our nation.
Feel free to stop by anytime and join us in the rear parking lot of our office. There is easy access off of Garden Alley, adjacent to the Bucks Bar Association. No parking will be allowed in our lot as there will be tents and people filling it throughout the day!
A flag will be raised at War Memorial Field of Central Bucks West High School at 375 West Court Street. The parade then moves east and end at Doylestown Cemetery where a memorial service will be held to honor our fallen heroes. Add the event to your Facebook calendar by clicking here.
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.
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.
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.