Monday, March 1, 2010

A Summary: Long-Term and Short-Term Disability

The following article was authored by Quatrini Rafferty attorney Brian Patrick Bronson, Esq. and originally published in our newsletter, the Legal Update.

As an employee you may be entitled to various employee benefits from your employer. These benefits may include health insurance, family medical leave, short-term and long-term disability benefits , and sickness and accident benefits. However, these programs can be confusing at the time when you need them most — when you have suffered either an injury, illness, or accident that prevents you from returning to work. The last thing on your mind at this point in time is getting through the required paperwork before you concentrate on your own recovery. However, this is the time that you need to be most diligent in protecting the benefits to which you may be entitled through your employment.

Your employer is not required to carry short-term and long-term disability benefits. However, many employers do provide these benefits. Unlike workers' compensation, short-term and long-term disability benefits are not limited to “work-related” injuries . These benefits cover any type of disability regardless of the cause.

You should be aware of the coverages provided by your employer and the terms and conditions of your particular benefits. Short-term and long-term disability benefits may be covered by a contract that the employer has entered into with an insurance company on behalf of all eligible employees. The terms of these contracts can vary drastically from policy to policy in terms of duration of benefits, definition of disability, deductible sources of income, and rehabilitation incentives. You should obtain a copy of your disability policy. Federal regulations require employers to provide copies of these policies within 30 days of a written request. You may also have been provided with an employee manual or Summary Plan Description (SPD). These documents can be very helpful in explaining your rights to employee benefits.

Employee benefits such as short-term and long-term disability are regulated by the federal government through a complex scheme of laws pursuant to the Employee Retirement Income and Security Act (ERISA). ERISA sets forth strict deadlines regarding all aspects of the processing of these claims that both you and the insurance company must follow. If you fail to file your claim or appeal of benefits denial timely, you may lose your right to sue your employer in court. If you have already filed a claim or an appeal and have not heard anything from the insurance company, you should not allow time to pass without knowing the deadlines that apply in your particular case. ERISA is complex and difficult to thoroughly discuss in this article; however, you must be vigilant in protecting your right to employee benefits.

If you have questions or concerns regarding your short-term and long-term disability benefits, please contact Brian Patrick Bronson at our Greensburg or Latrobe offices at (888) 288-9748 or

- Quatrini Rafferty -