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Frequently Asked Questions About ERISA

At Foster Law Firm, LLC, our experience in ERISA matters is difficult to match. Our lawyers have handled thousands of employee benefit claims, helping clients from their initial filings all the way up to appeals in the U.S. Supreme Court.

Below, we lay out answers to some of the most frequently asked questions concerning ERISA claims. If you would like to learn more, please reach out to an attorney at our firm by calling 866-279-9772 or contacting us online. We are based in Greenville, South Carolina, but have handled ERISA matters throughout the United States.


Q: What is ERISA?

A: ERISA stands for the Employee Retirement Income Security Act — a piece of legislation that came into being in 1974. As a federal law, it establishes minimum standards for employee benefit plans held by employees working for private businesses. Among other matters, ERISA governs:

  • Short term disability
  • Long term disability
  • Health insurance
  • Life insurance
  • Retirement/pension
  • Accidental death and dismemberment
  • Long term care
  • Severance pay

Q: Is my employer required to have an ERISA-governed benefit plan?

A: No. ERISA does not require any business to offer a benefit plan to its employees. It only sets minimum standards for businesses that do.

Q: How do I know if my employer is exempt from ERISA standards?

ERISA will apply to most employee plans. Only religious organizations and government organizations are exempt.

Q: How long does a claim take to process?

A: Initial claims are usually decided within four months — and often in as little time as one month. At this time, the claim will either be approved or denied. If denied, it is important to contact an attorney immediately.

From there, processing times can vary. Appeals may be adjudicated in a matter of months. If your case goes to court, however, the process can take up to two years.

Q: How do appeals work?

A: The appeals process can be thought of as your last chance to provide evidence for your case. Petitioners typically need to submit a wide range of documents for their claim to be successful on appeal, which is why working with a lawyer can be crucial.

Q: Do I really need a lawyer?

A: It depends on the stage of your case. Many individuals are able to make their initial claims without legal help. If your claim is denied, however, a lawyer is crucial to a successful appeal.

An attorney will know precisely what types of evidence you will need to provide and will ensure that you file all your documents in a timely manner. Moreover, should your appeal be denied, a lawyer is crucial if you choose to take your matter to court.