Without our health, it is difficult to enjoy all life has to offer. So, when a serious work injury happens and you’re unable to work, earn an income, or do simple tasks it can take a toll on us both physically and emotionally.
October was National Chiropractic Health Month and it got me thinking about all of the wonderful Chiropractors who I have come into contact with in the workers’ comp field in Pennsylvania.
Chiropractors are the type of people that you don’t give much thought to until you need them, but they are vital to keeping your body healthy and functioning correctly. I suggest visiting one even if you haven’t had an injury to prevent any issues from arising. If you are receiving workers’ compensation you may be eligible to visit a chiropractor as part of your treatment. To find out more about which medical expenses are covered under workers’ compensation see my previous blog.
Below are a few resources for finding the right chiropractor for you.
There are many more resources available, but these are a few of the best, and a great place to get started.
Once again, thank you to all the chiropractors I have worked with in the past and keep up the good work!
This year North America had a very active hurricane season leaving us to look back and ask the questions, what can we take away or do differently to prevent loss of life, excessive property damage and to ensure a quick recovery post-natural disaster. Having a plan prepared for the unlikely event of a disaster, with or without warning, can be a huge help when disaster strikes. After seeing the devastation brought on this year by Hurricane Harvey, Irma, Jose, and Maria it is clear that weather can be fierce and unpredictable.
Although we cannot control the weather, we can control our actions. Here are a few things we can be mindful of prior to the next massive weather event.1. Evacuation Route (Flooding, Snow or Nuclear)
- Know the evacuation route and the proper road signs to look for when traveling.
- Identify your shelters and your final destination to reunite with family. Based on the type of emergency, the location and evacuation route may change.
- Contact your township for evacuation routes, local resources and emergency phone numbers.
- Print a copy of maps, locations and numbers in case of a power, cell tower or phone outage.
- Consider a practice drive and be sure to discuss the plan with your extended family so they know your plan.
- Make sure you have all important phone numbers written out. If you lose power and your phone dies you want to make sure you have access to them. Also, it wouldn’t hurt to laminate them to protect from water damage.
- Have any valuables you want to keep protected from flooding? A tip that was floating around various news outlets says to put them in the dishwasher and lock it, since it is waterproof everything will stay dry.
- It’s impossible to know how long you will be without power during and after a natural disaster, so make sure you have extra batteries stored in a high, dry place.
- Fill your bathtubs and sinks with water before a storm, as well as filling up large gallon ziploc bags of water and putting them in the freezer. It will help food stay cool as it melts and be fresh drinking water.
- Knowing that food in the fridge or freezer could go bad if the power goes out, make sure to stock up on non-perishable foods that require little preparation or cooking.
- Make sure you have a few radios that are either battery operated or hand powered so you can stay informed throughout.
- Consider buying a satellite phone in case the cell towers are down for extended periods of time and you want to contact loved ones.
Hopefully, we will never see as devastating of a hurricane season again as we have in 2017, but if we do, I hope that people are able to be prepared for all of the disastrous possibilities that might happen.
How many times do you travel on roads around where you live? Probably almost every day right? When you are out traveling, how often do you see trucks in all different sizes hauling goods and products, ranging from oil, gas, UPS, FedEx, Amazon, Groceries, you name it! All of those drivers are working as drivers or drivers/deliverers. So, if they are driving to further the business of their Pennsylvania employers, and they are in an unfortunate accident, then they most likely should be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits.
How do those accidents occur? There are any number of ways accidents can occur. The week of November 5-11, 2017 is Drowsy Driving Prevention week across the nation. Certainly, drowsy driving is a cause, as the driver drifts off in their mind and body, then can drift off the road or into another vehicle, person, or object. Drunk or buzzed driving is certainly another cause; however, this would most likely not be accepted as an accepted work injury in Pennsylvania as this would be against the law. Other causes of accidents could be texting, eating, or just not paying attention to the road while driving. Weather or smoke from fires can also play a role, creating slick conditions and limit vision.
Work injuries can come in all forms from scratches and bruises to broken bones, head concussions, eye injuries torn muscles and tendons to even post-traumatic stress disorder. These injuries can either result in no missed time from work to many months out of work and treating for the injury(ies). Certainly, every case is different and should be handled on a case by case basis.
What happens if you or a loved one is simply traveling to and from work in Pennsylvania, is that covered by PA workers’ compensation? Typically, traveling back and forth from work in PA is not considered to be within the course of employment, however, there are some exceptions. These exceptions are as follows: The contract between the employer and employee specifically included transportation to and from work; the injured worker had no fixed place of work; the injured worker was on some special assignment for his or her employer; or some special circumstance where the injured worker was actually furthering the business of the employer. Again, these cases are fact specific and whether they are indeed covered as an accepted injury depends on the circumstances, the involved employer and workers’ compensation carrier, and eventually the Workers’ Compensation Judge, if left to go to a Decision in Court.
Did you know that in Pennsylvania, there are special rules that apply to drivers and passengers of van pools? To read the complete Legislation, please click the link below. http://www.legis.state.pa.us/WU01/LI/LI/US/HTM/1982/0/0279..HTM
Essentially, the Ride Sharing Act, and not the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act, comes into play when the employees are mere passengers hurt while in the van pool on their way to work; their employer has no ownership, lease, or contract for the van involved; and the employer simply provides information about the van pooling. Because the PA Workers’ Compensation Act is not involved, the injured workers can file a direct tort action, and not be limited to only workers’ compensation as their remedy. For answers to your traveling questions, feel free to contact Robinson Law LLC for an initial free consultation.
If you have a PA work injury, one thing that you can do that will make your life easier is organize your medical records regarding your work injury. Some tips for how to get started follow. First, get an expandable folder to hold all of your paperwork. Everything should be in printed form, even if you type notes on your computer or handwrite it all. Next, what are some of the things that you should include in your organizational file? All of your medical appointments with doctors, physical therapists, and/or chiropractors should be documented and kept in chronological order. Also, all diagnostic studies, such as X-rays, MRIs, CAT Scans, EMG and Nerve Conduction studies should come out not only on CDs, but also in reports. These reports are invaluable to your case. After each Dr. visit, you will receive a note regarding the history that you gave, your symptoms, your examination findings, the diagnosis, and recommendations for future treatment. Keep all of these in chronological order.
There may be instances where your doctor refers you to a specialist, such as an orthopedic surgeon or a neuro-surgeon. In addition, you may require surgery or surgeries. These will require you to have pre-admission testing, an operative report regarding the procedure, and certainly follow-up visits. It is recommended that you keep the various surgeries in different folders for simplicity sake. Also to consider, if you are to do a home exercise program, keep a log of your daily progress.
Why is it so important to keep good records and be organized? If you need to hire a lawyer, your lawyer is going to want your records to review to decide if he or she wants to take your case, and evaluate your medical condition. Also, what if you have a hearing coming up quickly and need to obtain medical treatment right away to help your case? If you don’t have your records readily available, then your chances of succeeding with your case, or defending against a Petition filed to stop your benefits in some way are greatly reduced. Also, what if you are fast approaching your Statute of Limitations, meaning that you are running out of time to file a Claim Petition to allege a work injury, or file a Reinstatement Petition to try to start your benefits back up, if they were stopped? If you have all of your records, this makes it very easy for your lawyer to do his or her job, as they do not have to subpoena records, which is time consuming and due to certain rules, takes weeks to actually obtain.
Some other items to keep copies of are the initial Injury Report, if your employer actually completed one, and copies of all of your wage loss workers’ compensation checks. Keep track of telephone conversations and days missed from work. In addition, if you are involved in litigation, then keep copies of all the Petitions and/or Answers that your lawyer and the other lawyer file. When you are in litigation, you and your lawyer must work as a team. It is important that you keep your lawyer apprised of your medical condition, your return to work in any capacity, and the status of your receipt of your wage loss workers’ compensation checks. It might sound simple and like common sense…..because it is and will make things easier for you and your PA workers’ compensation case.
After a work injury, one may have body aches and pain, loss of range of motion, and even loss of function of certain body parts, such as hands, arms, feet, or legs. In an effort to heal and move on many injured workers turn to physical therapy. In conjunction with treatment by a physician or chiropractor, physical therapy can be key. What is physical therapy anyway?
The below is Wikipedia’s definition.
Physical therapy, mostly known as Physiotherapy, is a primary care specialty in western medicine that, by using mechanical force and movements, Manual therapy, exercise therapy, electrotherapy and various physical therapies who practice evidence based treatments, remediates impairments and promotes mobility, function, and quality of life through examination, diagnosis, prognosis, and physical intervention. It is performed by physical therapists.
Physical therapy, mostly known as Physiotherapy, is a primary care specialty in western medicine that, by using mechanical force and movements, Manual therapy, exercise therapy, electrotherapy and various physical therapies who practice evidence based … en.wikipedia.org · Text under CC-BY-SA license
In order to receive or undergo physical therapy, one must get a prescription from a licensed physician. Therapy can also be in the form of occupational therapy and vestibular therapy. These types of therapies help individuals who have suffered concussions or eye injuries, for example. Occupational therapy can help with simple cognitive thinking exercises, and the vestibular therapy is used, among other things, for balance and eye disorders suffered due to concussions.
How long therapy goes on for depends on the injury, where the injured worker is with his or her treatment, and what his or her doctor prescribes. Something to be aware of when one is undergoing any therapy while on workers’ compensation is that in many cases, the workers’ compensation carrier will at some point file a Utilization Review, which is a way for the carrier to try to not pay for the treatment. How it works is having another physician or physical therapist review the treatment and or therapy and give an opinion as to whether the treatment is reasonable and necessary. If the treatment being reviewed is found to be reasonable and necessary, then the carrier will pay for the same. If the treatment being reviewed is found to be not reasonable or necessary, then the carrier will not pay for the same.
What can the injured worker do if the treatment is determined to be “not reasonable or necessary” but feels like the treatment or therapy is really working and wants to fight the determination? The injured worker should then obtain experienced workers’ compensation counsel and file a Petition to Review Utilization Review. The Petition will then get assigned to a Workers’ Compensation Judge, who will review evidence, then decide if the treatment is reasonable or necessary for the period reviewed. The evidence typically admitted is the injured workers’ testimony as to how and if the treatment helped him or her, and also the deposition testimony of the Provider in question. The burden is always on the employer/workers’ compensation carrier to prove that the treatment is not reasonable or necessary. If the Judge determines that the treatment is reasonable and necessary, then the carrier will have to pay for the treatment.
If you find yourself on workers’ compensation, and your treatment or therapy is being challenged by the workers’ compensation carrier, do not give up! You have options to try to keep your treatment.
As a workers’ compensation law firm in Pennsylvania we know that there are a lot of dangerous jobs revolving around the construction, upkeep, and monitoring of traffic throughout the Commonwealth. Not only can your morning or afternoon commute be dangerous for you as a driver but it can be extremely dangerous for those working on the road, especially with the increase in distracted driving incidents.
August is National Traffic Awareness Month. So we are taking a look at a few ways to improve safety for traffic and those workers who make our roads and bridges possible.
1) Slowdown in Construction Lanes
Did you know in the state of Pennsylvania the fines are doubled in active construction zones with additional license penalties? According to PennDOT, “87 PennDOT employees have lost their lives in the line of duty since 1970” which is a testament to the importance of caution in work zones.
It may feel like we are all short on time but we must not multitask while driving and slow down to keep everyone safe. Together we can make sure we are all safe and that no one causes an accident that puts drivers and road workers at risk.
2) Keep Your Eyes on the Road
If you have watched TV in the last couple years, then chances are you have seen the commercials and marketing campaigns to encourage people to stop texting and driving. The imagery and aftermath is tragic and real. Sadly, not everyone listens.
Taking your eyes off of the road even if just for a few seconds can be life-changing. Your text message can wait.
3) Practice Patience
Being busy, running short on time and then being stuck on Route 76 heading in to Philadelphia or on 309 or 78 heading towards e Lehigh Valley is beyond frustrating. But allowing yourself to get stressed out over something you cannot control will just make you more frustrated and your driving erratic. Either way it won’t get you anywhere faster. So sit back relax, listen to the radio… this (traffic) too shall pass.
These three traffic tips might seem trivial or the obvious suggestions ,but they are critical when it comes to safety. As long as we still have accidents caused by distracted driving, speeding or carelessness the reminders are necessary. In 2014, PennDOT reported, “121,317 reportable traffic crashes in Pennsylvania. These crashes claimed the lives of 1,195 people and injured another 79,758 people.” and “On Average in Pennsylvania: Each day 332 reportable traffic crashes occurred (about 14 crashes every hour). Each day 3 persons were killed in reportable traffic crashes (one death every 7 hours). Each day 219 persons were injured in reportable crashes (about 9 injuries every hour).” Accidents happen but many of them are preventable by following these 3 traffic tips!
Roads are constantly under construction during the summer and fall months and in Pennsylvania alone there are 4,506 bridges that are classified as structurally deficient, or a whopping 20%, according to a report earlier this year from The American Road & Transportation Builders Association. The only state that has a higher percentage is Iowa. With so many bridges in need of significant repairs you can only imagine the delays, accidents, and potential injuries that can happen.
During road construction and bridge maintenance here are all of the people at risk of a work related injury: equipment operators, truck drivers, construction workers, police officers, traffic directors, gas/electric/water company workers, bridge repair workers and more.
When most people think about the word “traffic” they likely think about being in vehicle traffic or being stuck in traffic, but traffic is not just contained to automobiles. There is also boat and air traffic – another topic for another day.
Until then, keep your eyes on the road, obey the safety laws and together we can prevent unnecessary traffic accidents.
Every aspect of PA workers’ compensation has a burden of proof to be met. For the injured worker, the Petitions to be filed to begin to receive or start receiving again workers’ compensation benefits are the Claim and Reinstatement Petitions, respectively. Each will be explained along with the burdens of proof required for each. For the employer and their workers’ compensation carrier, the Petitions that they have the burdens of proof on are the Modification, Suspension, and Termination Petitions.
Let’s first look at the Claim Petition. If you have suffered a work-related injury, and it is denied by your employer’s workers’ compensation carrier, the only way to attempt to receive benefits is if a Claim Petition is filed. There are elements that must be proven by you, the injured worker. First is that timely Notice must be given to your employer, either verbal or written. The Notice must be given within 120 days of the injury, and must be given to a supervisor, foreman, manager, or owner of the company. In other words, Notice cannot be just given to a co-worker or a friend at work, but to someone who is actually in charge. If you give Notice verbally, you will need to testify as to the details of the Notice before a Workers’ Compensation Judge. You also must have medical evidence that links your injury with your work. The injury has to have been suffered in the course and scope of your employment. Most times, this will involve taking a doctor’s deposition and submitting the transcript into evidence. It goes without saying that you also must prove that you were working at the time of your injury, the amount of your wages at the time of the injury, your job with the company and your job duties. All of these elements can be testified to before the assigned Workers’ Compensation Judge. It is important to note that the burden of proof when trying to obtain wage loss and medical benefits is always on the injured worker and never shifts to your employer or their workers’ compensation carrier.
Also, with a Reinstatement Petition, the burden of proof also lies with the injured worker. The Reinstatement Petition is filed after your wage loss benefits have been modified, suspended, or terminated. The burdens vary based on the reasons for the stoppage of the benefits, and will be dealt with in another Blog.
Now, on the flip side, the Petitions that require the employer and their workers’ compensation carrier to have the burden of proof are the following:
- Modification Petition
- Suspension Petition
- Termination Petition
All of these Petitions are filed by the workers’ compensation carrier on behalf of the employer against claimants (injured workers) to try to stop their receipt of workers’ compensation benefits in some way. First, the Modification Petition seeks to “modify” or decrease the amount of wage loss benefits that you receive on a weekly basis. This Petition is filed after the workers’ compensation carrier sends you for an IME (Independent Medical Examination) with a Dr. of their choosing, and that Dr. says that you, the injured worker are capable of returning to some type of work, like light or sedentary work. Once that Dr. has given such an opinion, then the workers’ compensation carrier hires a vocational counselor to do a Labor Market Survey, Earning Power Assessment, indicating that there is work generally available for you to return to in the community that would pay either the same or less wages than you earned at the time of your work injury. If the wages are the same, then a Petition for Suspension would be filed on behalf of the employer, workers’ compensation carrier; if the wages are less, then a Petition for Modification would be filed. With both the Suspension and Modification Petitions, only the wage loss can be affected, and the medical will remain open.
If the IME Dr. says that you, the injured worker are fully recovered, then the carrier will file a Termination Petition, to stop both your wage loss and medical benefits. In all cases, whether the Petition is filed on behalf of the Claimant or the Employer, the Petition will be assigned to a Workers’ Compensation Judge, based on where you live, and then a first hearing will be scheduled, a trial schedule will be set, and ultimately the assigned Judge will issue a Decision unless the case is settled.
April celebrates National Safe Digging Month which is aimed at educating residents about the importance of safe digging on their property to avoid utility lines that may prevent outages, personal injury or even death.
All US residents and businesses are urged to call 8-1-1 before they dig. This phone number will connect them to the proper state resources to properly mark lines, pipes and more so you can safely dig. The Common Ground Alliance Initiative created a website http://call811.com/ dedicated to education and the importance of safe digging. This website has resources for residents, farmers
and contractors. They have also created a very educational video, shared below.
Do you know what is underground?
If you are a Pennsylvania resident UGI has put out a helpful article of what to do BEFORE you dig on your property, you can read the full UGI article here. Another PA resident resource is provided by Pennsylvania One Call System, Inc a non-profit.
When Digging is your Job
If your job requires digging on a regular basis – you receive training starting on day one. There are protocols, checks and balances in place to prevent costly and possible harmful mistakes.
When digging, there is always risk, especially when digging near buried water, gas lines, electric, phone, cable, sewer and more. When doing larger projects such as drilling for natural gas and fracking there are additional risks, especially with the heavy machinery. OSHA, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, has been created and dedicated to providing safe and healthy work condition by providing training, outreach, education and assistance.
OSHA has a comprehensive website dedicated to safe drilling here.
The law in Pennsylvania, commonly referred to as “the coming and going rule”, holds that traveling to and from work is not in the course of employment. Mansfield Bros. Painting v. WCAB (German), 72 A.3d 842 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2013). There are, however, exceptions to this broad ruling. Those exceptions are:
- The worker has no fixed place of work.
- The worker is on a special assignment for the employer.
- The employment contract specifically included transportation to and from work.
- Unique circumstances in that the worker was furthering the business of the employer.
(Source): Peterson v. WCAB (PRN Nursing Agency), 597 A.2d 1116 (Pa. 1991); Peer v. WCAB (B&W Constr.), 503 A.2d 1096 (Pa. Cmwlth 1986).
Here are some real life, practical examples of cases where commuting was found to be within the worker’s course of employment. A medical doctor was required to travel between two fixed places, as part of her regular job duties. One day, while traveling between the two offices, she was injured. The Court found that because her job required her to travel between the two offices, that she was within the course of her employment. Ruth Fam. Med. Ctr. v WCAB (Steinhouse), 718 A.2d 397 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1998).
Another example is that a Pennsylvania State Trooper was going to work on a motorcycle when another car making an illegal turn went right in front of him. Because of the illegal turn, the Trooper was injured. What made the court determine that the Trooper was in the course of his employment was that the Trooper testified that prior to the impact of the accident, he intended to arrest the person for the illegal turn. Pennsylvania State Police v. WCAB (Dick), 694 A.2d 1181 (Pa. Cmwlth 1997).
Next are some examples of where commuting was not within the scope of employment or the workers’ employment terms did not include transportation. A worker for a painting company was sent to work on one, and only one project for its duration, and therefore was found to have a fixed place of employment. That worker sustained injuries while commuting from work, which were found not to work related. Mansfield Bros. Painting v. WCAB (German), 72 A.3d 842 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2013).
In the case of Fonder v. WCAB (Fox Integrated), 842 A.2d 512 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2004), the worker fell asleep at the wheel on his way home after an exceptionally long shift to sleep, and get ready for his next shift. Although he suffered work injuries from the motor vehicle accident, he did not qualify for benefits under any exception to the coming and going rule.
According to the case of Bechtel Power Corp. v. WCAB (Postlethwait), 648 A.2d 1266 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1994), the employee’s injury suffered while traveling home from work was not in the course of employment. In this particular case, even though the employee had a per diem travel allowance, as provided by his union bargaining agreement, this was not enough to prove that transportation was indeed included in that contract.
Every case is different and unique, so the facts have to be reviewed and analyzed to determine whether a traveling injury is indeed covered by Pennsylvania workers’ compensation. It is best to consult an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer to help out in this regard.