ERISA stands for the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, a set of laws passed in 1974 and expanded by later legislation that establishes protections for benefits provided by employers. Thanks to ERISA, employees in Shreveport have legal protection for benefits they rely on such as long-term disability insurance, pension plans, and other programs provided by employers.
If you feel that your rights to benefits protected by ERISA were violated, you may have grounds to file a lawsuit against your employer. These claims may be complex, however, so it is often wise to consult a knowledgeable Shreveport ERISA lawyer for guidance. An experienced insurance attorney could evaluate your claim and provide representation at all stages of the process, from collecting necessary documentation to filing a claim and following through with appeals, if needed.
ERISA provisions are set forth in federal statutes, starting at 29 U.S.C. §1001. These laws do not require employers to provide retirement plans, healthcare plans, and other benefits, but they do establish standards for those plans when employers offer them to their workers. Under ERISA, plans must:
• Provide employees with sufficient information about plan provisions, funding of the plan, and other aspects of the plan
• Be managed prudently by administrators in compliance with fiduciary responsibilities
• Have processes in place to handle grievances and appeals
• Allow participants to sue administrators for breach of fiduciary duty
• Enable participants to appeal denials of healthcare and other benefits
Following the enactment of the original ERISA provisions in 1974, Congress added further protections for those participating in healthcare plans, including their families. The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985 (COBRA), for instance, makes it possible for covered employees and their families to continue healthcare coverage for a certain length of time after employment has ended. In addition, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) provides added anti-discrimination protection to employees with pre-existing conditions and other factors.
ERISA permits employees who believe their rights were violated to file a lawsuit or take other action to enforce their rights. This includes situations where they believe their employer or carrier mismanaged pension funds or denied them healthcare benefits.
In many instances, enforcement of ERISA protections in Shreveport involves filing a lawsuit in federal court. For certain situations, however, there are administrative appeals which employees must exhaust before they have the right to file a lawsuit. When a plan insurer denies long-term disability benefits, for example, the denial must be addressed in an administrative hearing before the matter can move to federal court.
This administrative hearing enables an employee to provide detailed evidence to support a disability claim, so it is important to take full advantage of this opportunity, ideally with assistance from an ERISA lawyer in Shreveport. In a lawsuit, plaintiffs often do not have an opportunity to provide additional evidence in this way.
Although ERISA provides important protections to employees, it can be difficult to understand exactly what is protected and how to enforce those protections. That is where an experienced Shreveport ERISA lawyer may be able to offer valuable assistance.
If you have concerns about the management of your pension fund, a qualified attorney may be able to investigate the situation to determine whether you and other employees may have grounds for a lawsuit. Likewise, if you were denied healthcare benefits, a lawyer familiar with ERISA claims could assist in creating the strongest possible case for recovery and then advocate on your behalf to help reach a beneficial result. For more information about how a Shreveport ERISA lawyer could help in your particular situation, call today to set up a consultation.
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