Massachusetts Court Discusses Notice Required to Cancel a Workers’ Compensation Policy

It is well-established that employees who suffer injuries while working typically can recover workers’ compensation benefits from their employers. Employers generally do not carry the risk of having to pay their employees such benefits, though. Instead, they usually purchase workers’ compensation insurance. If an employer fails to pay its insurance premiums, however, it can impact a claimant’s right to recover benefits. Recently, a Massachusetts court discussed what notice an insurer who wishes to cancel a workers’ compensation policy due to non-payment of premium must provide to its insured, in a matter in which it was disputed who bore responsibility for the claimant’s benefits. If you suffered injuries at work, you might be owed benefits, and you should speak to a Massachusetts workers’ compensation attorney as soon as possible.

The Facts of the Case

Allegedly, the claimants suffered injuries while working for their employer, a subcontractor. The employer obtained a workers’ compensation policy with the insurer via the assigned risk pool. The policy was ultimately canceled for non-payment of the premium, but the risk was again assigned to the insurer, who issued another policy to the employer. The employer once again failed to pay the premium, and its insurer mailed it a notice of cancellation.

It is reported that the claimants filed claims against the employer’s insurer, as well as the insurer of the general contractor for the project they were working on when they were injured. The administrative judge denied their claims against the employer’s insurer and directed the general contractor’s employer to pay benefits to the claimants. The claimants appealed, and after a hearing, the reviewing board ruled that the employer’s insurer did not effectively cancel the policy and ordered it to pay the claimant’s benefits. The employer’s insurer then appealed.

Notice Required to Cancel a Workers’ Compensation Policy

On appeal, the court ruled that the employer’s insurer effectively canceled the policy, and therefore vacated the administrative judge’s ruling and remanded for further proceedings. The court explained that notices regarding insurance cancellation are governed by statutory law, which expressly authorized notice by first class mail. Additionally, the statute did not require that an insurer obtain proof that the insured received the notice in order for the cancellation to be effective.

The court further rejected the assertion that because the law provides an insured employer the right to appeal within ten days of receiving the notice, notices of cancellation must include a proof of  receipt to be effective, noting the reviewing board read requirements into the statute that the language of the statute did not impose. As such, it vacated the reviewing board’s decision.

Meet with an Experienced Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Lawyer

Employers have an obligation to provide employees that suffer work-related harm with workers’ compensation benefits regardless of whether they are insured. If you were injured while working, you might be owed benefits, and you should meet with an attorney to assess your claim. James K. Meehan of the Law Office of James K. Meehan is an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer who can advise you of your rights and aid you in pursuing the full extent of benefits available. You can reach him via the form online or by calling 508-822-6600 to set up a meeting.