Berkebile Towing v. WCAB (Harr & UEGF), May 2021
Workers’ compensation benefits are available to any employee injured in the course of their job. Some businesses try to avoid the cost of workers compensation insurance, taxes and other “employee” related costs (health insurance, retirement benefits, etc.) by classifying their workers as independent contractors, or paying them “under the table.” Your boss might tell you that you are not entitled to benefits, or that they have no insurance. The company may even send you tax forms as an independent contractor (using a 1099 form instead of a W-2), or might not pay any taxes at all. What they say, or documents they show you, does not mean they are correct.
There are many factors the court will consider in determining whether someone is an employee or independent contractor, but the main factor is “control.” Where a business has the power to direct the time, duties and circumstances of the job and/or job site, more often than not the worker is an employee of that business, NOT an independent contractor.
Sometimes the company will beg you not to report the claim, and will promise to “take care of you” – until they see cost of medical treatment, and realize the length of time you might be disabled. Other times, a business might threaten reporting your violation of tax laws, residence status or other alleged crimes. A threat to an employee to avoid paying workers compensation benefits is a violation of law in itself, and may even constitute insurance fraud by the employer. Additionally, if you may have violated some law, it is likely that the employer violated the very same law in the manner they hired or paid you.
In many of these situations, the employer did not pay for workers’ compensation insurance to cover injured employees. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has created the Uninsured Employer Guarantee Fund (UEGF) to pay benefits to injured workers’ in these circumstances. This Fund has many rules and time deadlines that must be satisfied, or benefits are not required to be paid. An uninsured employer’s conduct in delaying your report of an injury could jeopardize your right to benefits from the Fund. Claiming that you didn’t know will not change the outcome.
Every injured worker NEEDS to know their rights, their duties, and their options as soon as possible after suffering a work related injury. One wrong step, wrong word or delayed action could mean the difference between receiving the benefits available under the Workers’ Compensation Act, or getting nothing at all. The work injury lawyers at Schmidt, Kirifides & Rassias are each ‘Certified Workers’ Compensation Specialists’ pursuant to the strict requirements established by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania and PA Bar Association. For a free, no obligation consultation, call us at 610-601-5399 or reach out to us online.