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Arnett & Arnett, PC Feb. 22, 2022

Many employees in Arizona and across the United States are unclear about their rights under ERISA, which stands for the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974. ERISA is a broad federal law that established a set of standards for health, welfare, long-term disability, pension, and other kinds of insurance plans. The law applies to most employers in the United States and protects millions of employees in the pursuit of their employee benefits. However, many employees do not understand what ERISA is and how it can affect their benefits.

ERISA claims involve many legal nuances and procedural requirements, which is why it’s important to consult with an attorney. If you wonder about your rights under this federal law or need help pursuing an ERISA claim, our disability insurance claim attorneys with over 30 years of experience can help. With our office in Chandler, Arizona, we also serve clients in Phoenix, Tucson, and throughout the state.

What Is ERISA?

ERISA provides protections to employees covered by employer-sponsored health, pension, long-term disability, and other insurance plans unless the plan is offered by a church or government entity. The federal law requires all employers in the private sector that voluntarily provide employee benefits to comply with ERISA standards and regulations. Failure to comply with ERISA can result in harsh penalties for employers.

What Does ERISA Do?

ERISA protects the rights and interests of private-sector employees who have access to benefits through their employer. Protections under ERISA extend to employees, retirees, and plan beneficiaries. The federal law provides regulations for plans that offer long-term disability and other benefits.

Under ERISA, plan administrators have an obligation to provide information about the plan when requested by participants of employee benefit plans. The law also provides an opportunity for those whose long-term disability or another claim was denied to have the appropriate fiduciary perform a full and fair review of the claim.

What Does ERISA Cover?

If you have long-term disability insurance through your employer, your plan is most likely governed by ERISA. If you purchased the insurance plan on your own, on the other hand, it might not be subject to protection under ERISA law. However, you may still have options to secure the benefits to which you are entitled if your claim was denied, regardless of whether or not you have insurance through an employer.

ERISA covers not only long-term disability plans but also employer-sponsored:

  • 401(k)s

  • Individual retirement accounts (IRAs)

  • Pensions

  • Scholarship funds

  • Profit-sharing plans

  • Welfare plans, including health and life insurance

Specifically, ERISA protects employee benefits by holding plan administrators and other parties in charge to a high standard.

What Rights Are Protected Under ERISA?

ERISA requires plan administrators to provide important information to each participant. For example, for long-term disability insurance, the information must include the guidelines for qualifying for a long-term disability, filing a long-term disability claim, or appealing the denied claim.

ERISA also requires the administrators of covered plans to notify participants of any changes to plans prior to implementing them. When an employee is injured or diagnosed with an illness that prevents them from working, the employee must be notified about the time limits for filing a claim for long-term disability benefits in order to obtain coverage under the plan. The information must be provided to the employee in writing.

Who Are ERISA Fiduciaries?

The protections under ERISA also include protecting employees from any wrongdoing on the part of plan fiduciaries. In legal terms, a “fiduciary” is an individual with discretionary authority to:

  • Administer the plan

  • Control the disposition of plan benefits

  • Render investment advice concerning plan benefits

ERISA requires fiduciaries to exercise due care, prudence, and diligence. Under federal law, fiduciaries may be held personally liable for any losses caused by mismanagement, abuse, or other forms of breach of duty.

How Arnett & Arnett, PC Can Help

If you do not understand your rights under ERISA or need assistance with filing a long-term disability claim or appeal, reach out to a knowledgeable attorney who has specific experience handling ERISA claims.

At Arnett & Arnett, PC, our widely respected and experienced attorneys understand the complexities of ERISA cases and are committed to protecting the rights of employees covered by ERISA. Contact our long-term disability claim lawyers by scheduling a case evaluation today.