Paula Robinson's Blog for Workers Compensation & Disability |

Road to Recovery With Physical Therapy After A Work Injury

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 … · 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.



3 Simple Reminders of Traffic Safety

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.

The Breakdown of Burden of Proof in Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation

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.



Can I File a Claim Petition on My Own

If you suffer a work injury, give your notice to your employer, and your claim is denied, the next step is to file a Claim Petition that will get assigned to a Workers’ Compensation Judge, who will  take evidence from you and the employer, and ultimately decide the case, if it does not settle beforehand.  So, what is a Claim Petition?  It is a Petition filed by the Claimant i.e., the injured worker setting forth the details of the injury, including whether Notice was given to the employer, and how, the wage information, and dates that disability is alleged. The burden is on the Claimant to prove disability. In years past, the way to file the Claim Petition was to get the proper form from the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation, PA Dept. of Labor & Industry, have it typed up or hand printed by the Claimant him or herself, or hire a workers’ compensation lawyer to prepare and mail the same.  As with everything else, technology has taken over, and the Dept. of Labor and Industry has within the last few years launched an on-line tool for tracking and monitoring your case and filing Petitions, among other things, that is accessed and maintained on your behalf by your workers’ compensation lawyer, as well as your employer’s workers’ compensation carrier and Workers’ Compensation Judges.  This new on-line tool is referred to as WCAIS or Workers’ Compensation Automated Integrated System.  At this point in time, when an injured worker receives a Denial of their Claim in the mail, the Denial will give instructions to contact the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation in Harrisburg if the injured worker wants to pursue a workers’ compensation claim.  The phone number for the Helpline at the Bureau is 1 (800) 482-2383.  Once you ask for the Claim Petition, they will either email or mail you a packet, and you can fill the Claim Petition out yourself.  Please note that as time goes by, it seems to be the intention of the Bureau to go paperless.  While you can file a Claim Petition yourself, without a lawyer, the situation gets a bit rough without representation.  Once the Claim Petition is filed, it will be assigned to a Workers’ Compensation Judge in the closest Workers’ Compensation office to your home.  A lawyer for your employer and their workers’ compensation carrier will file an Answer to the Claim Petition and a first hearing will be scheduled by the Judge.  At this hearing, depending on the Judge, you will have to testify as to your work injury and must meet all of the elements necessary for the granting of the Claim Petition.  As most people have not had a prior work injury, and are not familiar with the litigation process, strategic points can be missed leading to the denial, once again of your claim.  Further, as medical evidence is needed from a doctor, who must give oral testimony, typically through a deposition, most individuals do not have the money to pay the doctor his fee, which in most cases costs thousands of dollars.  The doctor to be deposed would be the treating doctor, who can testify that the injury is work-related.  Usual deposition fees charged by the doctors are anywhere from $2,500.00 to $6,000.00 and they want to be paid ahead of time.  The bottom line is that if you have a Pennsylvania work injury denied by your employer’s workers’ compensation carrier, you can file the Claim Petition on your own, but it is really worthwhile to seek the advice of a certified workers’ compensation lawyer to ensure the best results.

Digging Safety in PA – Resident & Professionals

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 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?

According to the Common Ground Alliance, “There’s more than one football field’s length of buried utilities for every man, woman and child in the U.S.”

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.

Your Commute To and From Work, Is It Covered Under Workers’ Compensation?

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.


Ethics of Claiming Income & Working Legally

If you follow our blog you may have seen the blog about bartenders and jobs that rely on tips for income. No only is it illegal to not report your tip earning, but you also run the risk of insufficient wage loss benefits in the event you have a work injury. Let us explain why it is so important.

In the state of Pennsylvania if you are employed by a person or company you are required by law to carry workers’ compensation insurance. Here is a quote from the first page of a downloadable PDF from the Department of Labor & Industry in Pennsylvania:

“ Workers’ Compensation (WC) is mandatory, employer-financed, no-fault insurance which ensures that employees disabled due to a work-related injury or disease will be compensated for lost wages and provides necessary medical treatment to return them to the workforce.

The workers’ compensation system provides an “exclusive remedy” to employers and employees and is designed to simultaneously achieve the goals of safer workplaces, prompt compensation and treatment of those it protects and reduced litigation costs to all parties.”

[If you are unsure if you are required to carry insurance or be insured click here to review the website.]

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When It Pays to Complain

Workers’ Compensation case law helps lawyers help their clients, and the case of Gahring v. WCAB (R & R Builders and Stoudt’s Brewing Company), 128 A.3d 375 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2015) is a perfect example.  In this case, the injured worker (Claimant) first worked for R and R Builders where he suffered a low back injury resulting in disc herniations at two levels of his spine.  He settled his case with R and R Builders and their workers’ compensation carrier.  Some eight years later he went to work for Stoudt’s Brewing Company as a line cook, and the next year began to experience increased back pain, which then led to surgery the year after that.  The Claimant argued that the second employer was responsible for his back pain because he had to work increased hours, and most importantly gave sufficient notice of a repetitive traumatic injury to his low back because he complained over time to his supervisor, putting them on notice that this new work as a line cook was aggravating his prior work injury.

At the initial level of litigation before the assigned Workers’ Compensation Judge, the Judge did not hold the first employer liable, ruling that the aggravation of Claimant’s back condition occurred while Claimant was working for the second employer, but also ruled that the second employer was not liable because Claimant did not give timely notice of the injury.  The case was appealed all the way up to the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania, and the Court agreed with the Claimant.  The Court specifically ruled that because the Claimant complained overtime to his supervisor about his increased duties and work hours, that this indeed was timely notice and therefore ruled in the Claimant’s favor.

The bottom line is that if you are hurting from a work injury, you should say something and not feel bad or guilty about it.  Although you might think that it can be controversial, it is actually your responsibility to give notice to your employer of a work injury, or you could jeopardize receiving well deserved workers’ compensation benefits.


Cashing Out as a Bartender – It Pays

“It’s five o’clock somewhere!” a popular expression among adults after a long day or heading into a weekend. In America, globally for that matter, it is not uncommon for people to gather at local watering holes, aka a bar or pub, for happy hours, a quick drink and other social activities. To help business, many establishments have added themed nights like trivia night, dart tournaments, discount specials and more.

It is also known that good bartenders can make really good money in tips, especially on a busy night. This is where things can get tricky in the “tipping” industry. There are many jobs that pay minimum wage or even less and the rest of the income is tip based, therefore in order to make a decent living, one would rely heavily on tips. Keep in mind it is required by law that one claims all tips whether cash or via credit cards when you ‘clock out’ at the end of the day or night.

It is likely you know of someone that has ‘pocketed’ some of those tips without claiming them as income to avoid paying taxes. Yes, it is illegal, however it still happens. What people may not realize as a successful bartender or any tip related professional is that if they do not fully claim their wages and a work injury occurs there is no way to get appropriate wage loss benefits you should be earning.

Granted, one might not think bartending is a dangerous or high risk of injury job, but accidents do happen. Especially when you step back and look at the potential risk factors as a bartender it is not so glamorous avoiding those wet floors, broken glass, unruly patrons and more. Remember, no one plans for a work injury but if it happens you want to be protected.

Remember to tip your bartender – they count on it!

Pennsylvania Requires Employers to Obtain Workers Compensation

To most Americans, quality of life is very important. We strive for this image of work and life balance that we must attain. While there is no magic answer to that balance, peace of mind can be a big relief when it comes to workplace safety.

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania requires employers to carry workers’ compensation insurance. This is for the protection of the employer and employee should the employee be hurt while on the job. Workers’’ compensation benefits provide Pennsylvania workers coverage for both medical benefits and wage loss due to a work injury.

In Pennsylvania, all employers of one or more employees are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance. A small price to pay for peace of mind should something happen on the job – medical and wage loss benefits. If you are an employee in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, speak to your employer as to who their workers’ compensation carrier is – it is required.