Paula Robinson's Blog for Workers Compensation & Disability

Celebrating Labor Day in Pennsylvania With a Focus on Workers’ Compensation Act

To mark the approaching Labor Day, it would be befitting to focus on how the Workers’ Compensation Act in Pennsylvania has evolved over time. 

The Enactment of Pennsylvania’s Law on Workers’ Compensation: A Brief History

The Pennsylvania Workers’ Comp Act came into force in 1915. Prior to this Act, injured workers in the state were required to show “negligence” on part of the employer in order to obtain any form of compensation. 

Negligence meant that the worker would have established through evidence what was the reasonable “standard of care” for their particular job, and that the employer’s failure to exercise that level of care led to the workplace injury. 

In the early 1900s, workers in Pennsylvania were engaged in primary occupations, such as farming, coal mining, and factory jobs. 

The kind of safety systems and technology that are available to today’s workers were virtually non-existent at that time. As a result, the workers experienced a high incidence of catastrophic injuries – with little to no legal recourse. 

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Evaluating and Reporting Unsafe Working Conditions

An unsafe workplace environment occurs when a worker is exposed to physical conditions that pose a risk of injury while performing normal daily work duties. 

For example, defective or broken machinery, exposed electrical wiring, direct exposure to hazardous chemicals, uneven or slippery floors, or lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) could create an unsafe working conditions for workers. 

OSHA Guidelines on Dealing with Unsafe Working Conditions 

Under both federal and Pennsylvania laws, an employer is required to provide a safe workplace. In the case of unsafe working conditions, a worker in PA can report the violation to their employer as well as to the office of OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) at the state or federal level. 

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HOW LONG DO I HAVE TO BE EMPLOYED BEFORE BEING ELIGIBLE FOR WORKERS’ COMPENSATION BENEFITS IN PA?

In Pennsylvania, you are eligible for workers’ compensation benefits from day one!  As long as you are working your job, as defined by your job description and you are injured, making you unable to work your job, you can file a claim for workers’ compensation benefits. 

You must meet the following requirements, however, to be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits.  

  • You must be an employee, receiving a W-2, not an independent contractor.
  • You must give timely proper “notice” of your work injury to your boss, supervisor, or foreman within 120 days from the date of the injury.  It is best, however, to give notice as soon as possible so that steps can be taken for the employer to submit the claim to their workers’ compensation carrier.
  • Treat for the work injury and have a physician write a note and/or report that you are “disabled” as a result of the work injury and that you are unable to work your regular job or any type of job (setting, desk, light, medium work). 
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What you should do if you are injured during an emergency at work?

injured during an emergency at work

If an emergency such as a fire, toxic gas leak or chemical spill occurs at your workplace, causing you an injury, removing you to a safe place (away from the hazard) should be the first task of the employer. Do you know what to do if you are injured during an emergency at work?

The employer should have an emergency evacuation, rescue, and safety plan in place along with safety equipment and trained personnel. 

Seek Medical Attention 

You must seek medical attention as soon as possible following the workplace emergency and accident. 

Visiting the emergency room is warranted in most cases. If further medical treatment is advised, your employer should give you a list of panel providers for you to choose from for treatment.  Typically, if you want your medical bills paid by the workers’ compensation carrier, you are required to treat with the panel providers for the first 90 days after your injury.

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What To Do When Denied Worker’s Compensation?

pa workers compensation attorney

Not all employers are alike!  If you or someone you know suffers a work injury, the first step is to give “Notice” in some fashion to your boss, supervisor, or foreman.  Your PA employer is then to turn the claim over to their workers’ compensation insurance carrier to be processed.  Once this is done, the assigned workers’ compensation adjuster has twenty-one (21) days to either accept or deny the claim.  Even if the claim is accepted, it could be accepted temporarily or as a medical only, which can be explained by an experienced PA workers’ compensation attorney in further detail.

PA workers’ compensation benefits are in two (2) parts; there is the wage loss paid to you by the workers’ compensation carrier while you are out of work because of the injury, and there are medical benefits paid for the treatment for the work injury.  

If the workers’ compensation adjuster denies your claim, your only next step is to file a Workers’ Compensation Claim Petition.  In order to have the best chance of winning on the Claim Petition, you really need to have a PA Workers’ Compensation Lawyer with years of experience represent you.  The burden of proof is always on you, the injured worker, to prove that you suffered a work injury while in the course and scope of your employment.

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Hydration at Work During Summer Months in PA

hydration at work

Many areas in Pennsylvania experience high temperatures in the summer months. Although doctors advise people to minimize heat exposure in these months, many PA workers don’t have that option. Staying hydrated at work isn’t always as easy as it seems.

Making sure that workers are sufficiently hydrated is one of the most effective ways to protect them during the season of heat waves.

Heat Illness – Risk Factors

Workers should be aware of the various risk factors that could reduce their heat tolerance levels.

Risk factors that may contribute to heat illness include hot air and humidity, limited air circulation, indoor radiant heat (from hot manufacturing equipment and processes), heavy protective clothing, and dehydration (not drinking an adequate amount of fluid).

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5 High Risk Injury Jobs in PA

Injuries at the workplace can range from minor to severe, and the risks can vary depending on the nature of the job.

Workplace injuries can be serious, affecting the victim’s quality of life as well as reducing their ability to earn wages for a period of time, or even permanently in some cases.

Here is a description of five high risk injury jobs in Pennsylvania:

Construction

Numerous potential hazards are present at various construction sites across Pennsylvania. Even after observing all the safety precautions, construction workers continue to be at a high risk of jobsite accidents and serious injuries.

Figures published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) show that 4 out of 100 construction workers suffer every year from workplace injuries. This high injury rate reflects the high-risk job environment in the construction industry in PA.

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At What Point Is It Necessary To Hire A Workers’ Compensation Lawyer?

when to hire a workers comp lawyer

The timing of hiring a workers’ compensation lawyer can happen at any time….in most cases sooner is better.  After your work injury has occurred and you give timely “Notice” to your employer of the same, many different scenarios can take place.  Your work injury could be accepted, denied, or accepted temporarily and/or for medical only.

When Do I hire a Workers’ Compensation Attorney?

If your work injury is denied, a Claim Petition must be filed in order for you to attempt to obtain workers’ compensation benefits, both wage loss and medical.  In order to proceed and having the best chance of succeeding with the Claim Petition, a seasoned workers’ compensation lawyer should be retained. In the process of litigation on a Claim Petition, the same will be assigned to a workers’ compensation judge, who will hear evidence including your live testimony in court.  Also, in most cases, medical testimony from your doctor and the doctor hired on behalf of the workers’ compensation carrier/your employer must be taken via a deposition, for which the doctors charge money, with their fee being thousands of dollars. There are time deadlines and rules of engagement that must be followed, which a seasoned PA Workers’ Compensation Attorney knows.  Also, in the process, the parties will be given an opportunity to participate in a “Mandatory Mediation” which is a way to potentially settle your case.  It is critical to know how to create a demand that will be taken seriously and result in a settlement with the largest amount of money. Here again is where hiring an experienced PA Workers’ Compensation Lawyer is to your advantage.

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PTSD and Workers’ Compensation in PA

PTSD in the workplace

Post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD is a mental health condition that may occur at any point of time after you have witnessed or experienced a significantly traumatic event. PTSD in the workplace is more common than one might think, especially if a work injury has occurred.

When such an event occurs at the workplace in Pennsylvania, you may be eligible for workers’ compensation for your PTSD condition.

If you believe you are suffering from PTSD, you should promptly seek medical advice. Any delay in treatment could worsen your condition and put your workers’ comp claim in PA at risk.

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Negotiating a PA Workers’ Compensation Settlement

negotiate a workers' compensation settlement

Once you begin receiving your workers’ compensation wage loss and medical benefits, it will only be a matter of time until your employer and their workers’ compensation carrier will take steps to try and stop your compensation benefits or try to settle your claim for a lump sum amount of money. You will likely need to negotiate a PA Workers’ Compensation. settlement.  It is not a matter of if, it is a matter of when.

As time goes by, your employer and their workers’ compensation carrier will send you to undergo independent medical examinations and based on the reports from those examinations will attempt to modify, suspend, or terminate your wage loss and medical benefits.  It is important to understand that if they are not successful the first time around with the litigation before a workers’ compensation judge, they will keep trying until they are successful or want you to settle your case altogether.  Rather than risk losing benefits, many PA injured workers opt to settle their case.

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