A few years ago I received a call from an employee who while working in Philadelphia was injured severely at work, but the employer did not carry workers’ compensation insurance. Because the employer had no assets, I unfortunately had to inform this injured employee that he may never recover. There may now be help for those injured in Philadelphia or anywhere in Pennsylvania while at work even if their employer does not carry workers’ compensation insurance because of a recent change in the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act.
On November 9, 2006, Governor Rendell signed into law Act 147, formerly House Bill 2738. The amendments to the workers’ compensation Act include:
1) A “resolution hearing” procedure to speed up processing of compromise and release agreements;
2) A “mandatory trial schedule” to be established at the first hearing by a workers’ compensation judge, including mandatory mediation unless that would be “futile”;
3) Added to Section 414 of the Act a provision stating: “when assigning petitions…, the department shall not assign to a particular workers’ compensation judge more than seventy-five per centum of the petitions from a particular county”;
4) An Uninsured Employers Guaranty Fund.
From this writer’s perspective, the largest impact of the law will be the addition of the Uninsured Guaranty Fund. The Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act covers all injuries to employees at work. It is a no-fault system, with the injured employee only having to prove that he was injured while working (in the course of employment) and is disabled (cannot work). In Pennsylvania, all employers are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance. However, some do not in violation of the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act. Many employees who worked for small businesses could never collect if the employer did not carry workers’ compensation insurance. Under the new law, a fund is created for an injured worker to collect even if the employer has no insurance. This fund is called the “Guaranty Fund” which was created under Act 147 of 2006. Finally, employees who have worked for irresponsible employers that never carried insurance have a remedy!