I handle workers’ compensation cases to obtain benefits for my clients.
If you are injured in your workplace and are unable to work, you may be entitled to file a workers compensation claim for benefits. Depending on the extent of your injuries, you may also be eligible to receive short-term disability and long-term disability insurance benefits.
Worker compensation insurance companies frequently deny valid work injuries and claims by trying to blame an injury and disability on non-work related activities or a pre-existing health condition.
1. What is workers’ compensation?
The Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act was created for workers injured on-the-job, or who develop a work-related illness that prevents them from working. Benefits include wage loss compensation and paid medical expenses until workers can return to work. These benefits are generally paid by employers through a private insurance company, the State Workers’ Insurance Fund, or by the employers themselves if they are self-insured. Employers in Pennsylvania are required to maintain workers’ compensation.
2. How do you know if you need an attorney?
Serious work-related injuries or illnesses and the litigation process are all situations that generally require legal representation. If you are injured, or have contracted a work-related illness, or believe you have been treated unfairly, contacting an attorney is in your best interest. You are permitted to represent yourself in court and in front of a judge. However, this is ill-advised because the employer and its insurance company will undoubtedly be represented by an experienced workers’ compensation attorney, putting you at a severe disadvantage. Even if your case is not before a judge, it may be wise to contact an attorney to help you navigate the difficult process of dealing with the insurance company, which often provides you with little, incorrect or conflicting information.
3. What should a worker do after getting injured on the job?
It is extremely important to report your injury to your supervisor or employer IMMEDIATELY. You must include the date, time, and circumstances of your injury. As long as you were not doing anything illegal, your injury is covered, so do not hesitate to report such an injury—even if you feel it may be your fault. Job-related illnesses such as mesothelioma and repetitive trauma injuries such as carpel tunnel syndrome that occur over time must be reported as soon as a diagnosis has been obtained and you learn that the injury or condition is related to your employment.
4. What injuries, diseases or illnesses are covered by workers’ compensation?
Generally, injuries, illnesses and diseases caused by your work are covered from the first day of employment. Some time limitations may apply to lung diseases. Not covered are self-inflicted injuries or those caused by intoxication or violation of the law including the use of illegal drugs. Repetitive trauma, or over-use injuries are covered by workers’ compensation.
5. Can you be fired by your employer for applying for workers’ compensation?
No. It is against the law for an employer to fire workers simply because they have filed a workers’ compensation claim. However, if you are on disability for an extended period of time, there is a chance you may be replaced and your job will not remain available for you. Employers are not required to hold your job for you while you recover, although some do. In such a case, you may be eligible for unemployment benefits if you are not receiving workers’ compensation benefits.
6. How do you pay for an attorney to represent you in a workers’ compensation claim?
Many attorneys handle workers’ compensation cases for a percentage of the lump sum offered to settle the case. Your attorney will not get paid unless you get paid. Whatever the arrangement, your fee agreement with your lawyer must be approved by the judge or Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board handling your case.
7. Is it possible for you to receive a lump-sum settlement if you are found to be permanently and totally disabled from further gainful employment?
Yes. Settling your case for a lump sum takes careful consideration and a variety of factors must be analyzed. You and your attorney should and will go over what to consider when contemplating settlement. Retroactive payment after winning a disputed claim may also be in the form of a lump sum, plus interest, and weekly benefits thereafter. You may be entitled to a specific loss award if you have permanently lost the use of an appendage such as finger, toe, hand, arm or leg, loss of hearing or sight, or disfigurement. A specific loss award is paid in a lump sum.
8. Can my employer try to terminate my workers’ compensation benefits?
Yes. Under the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act, your employer may file a petition to terminate your right to workers’ compensation benefits, if it can show that you are no longer disabled or that any remaining disability is unrelated to the injury. Your employer can win a termination of benefits if its medical expert offers testimony that you are fully recovered, that you can return to work without restrictions, and that there are no medical findings to support your complaints of pain.
9. Will a pre-existing problem, like arthritis, prevent me from getting workers’ compensation benefits?
No. Under the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act, even if you had a pre-existing problem, such as arthritis, you may receive benefits if you can show that an aggravation, re-activation or acceleration of the condition occurred as a result of your job duties or the work incident.