Paula Robinson's Blog for Workers Compensation & Disability

If I Am Injured at Work, Can I Choose My Own Doctor in Pennsylvania?

One of the misconceptions many workers have is that the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation system requires a worker to undergo treatment for workplace injuries from a company specified doctor only. However, this is not the whole truth.

Can you stick with your preferred physician/medical-center?

The quick answer is ‘yes’. However, your employer may require you to subscribe to a “Panel Acknowledgement” at the time of hiring, which can be re-iterated immediately after your injury. With this, the employer may provide a list of at least 6 qualified physician names.

If these conditions are fulfilled, you will be required to seek treatment from a doctor from this list for the first 90 days post your injury. Once this time limit is over, you are free to choose your own doctor for additional treatment.

If the employer has not fulfilled the above-described conditions, you can choose your own doctor in Pennsylvania right after your injury.

Regardless of injury, your employer may also mandate the need for a physical exam by a specified physician, once or twice a year.

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Temporary Total Disability vs. Permanent Partial Disability

If you have been injured in the Commonwealth of PA, chances are that you are either on Temporary Total Disability or Permanent Partial Disability.  Below is an explanation of the difference between the two.

Workers’ Compensation benefits in Pennsylvania are in two parts:  Wage loss and medical benefits.  The wage loss is to pay you at a “Compensation Rate” instead of your regular wage earnings.  The compensation rate is calculated off of your past earnings with that employer, based on your gross earnings, called your “Average Weekly Wage”.

If you suffered a work injury and require some medical treatment, but are capable of still working your pre-injury job, then you will probably receive “Medical Only” benefits.  These can come in the form of “Temporary Medical Only” benefits or “Medical Only” benefits that will continue until a Judge orders them to be stopped or you settle your case.  If you receive a Notice of Temporary Compensation Payable, medical only, then these benefits will stop after a period of ninety (90) days from the date of the Notice.

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Avoiding Work Injuries as a Truck Driver

As one would imagine, the more time spent on the road, the higher the odds of being involved in a traffic accident. The trucking industry is an important one in our country and truck drivers play a key role in it. But there are certain hazards that come with this job that can put the health and safety of drivers at risk.

Collisions and other issues with the job of a truck driver can leave drivers with a host of different injuries and issues that may have long-lasting and even lifetime effects. Some of these may include:

Physical Injuries:

  • Broken bones – These can take weeks or even months to fully heal, and in some situations may require surgery.
  • Back injuries – Injuries to the back can lead to long-term chronic pain or even paralysis.
  • Concussions – These can have serious consequences and can lead to cognitive issues, vision problems, light and noise sensitivity, dizziness, and memory loss, to name a few.
  • Shoulder injuries – These can include rotator cuff tears, either from an accident or from loading and unloading the truck.
  • Strains and sprains – These are the most common issues resulting from loading and unloading the truck.
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When Should I Seek Help from a Workers’ Compensation Lawyer?

Workers’ compensation for injuries or illnesses that occur at work is often best obtained when you have competent legal representation.

You should contact a Pennsylvania workers’ compensation lawyer if:

  • You have been injured while doing your job
  • You have suffered a work-related sickness
  • You believe you have been treated unfairly in terms of compensation

Some workers mistakenly assume that they can easily handle a legal situation like this on their own.

While you can represent yourself case before a Workers’ Compensation Judge, having a workers’ compensation lawyer on your side significantly increases your chances of actually getting the compensation you truly deserve. In fact, the PA workers’ compensation lawyer doesn’t receive any payment unless they have been successful in obtaining or retaining workers’ compensation wage loss benefits, or settled your case.

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How Legal Marijuana Will Affect Workers’ Comp Cases in PA

Legal Marijuana Will Affect Workers' Comp Cases in PA

Pennsylvania legalized the use of marijuana for medical reasons in 2016. However, the rules related to legal marijuana and workers’ comp benefits are still not very clear.

Treatment Categories are Open to Interpretation

PA’s Medical Marijuana Act specifies the medical conditions for which marijuana can be used as a treatment. These include some types of spinal cord injuries, neuropathies, PTSD, and chronic pain conditions where traditional therapy does not work.

Where things get complicated is that several of these diagnosis categories are subject to interpretation. Without professional medical knowledge or skilled legal representation, injured workers in PA could be denied their rightful medical treatment.

Many workers in Pennsylvania are facing this situation where they require medical marijuana treatment for their workplace injury, but they do not have any legal advice about their rights and which treatments could be covered under workers’ compensation.

Injured workers in PA should be able to make informed choices about legally obtaining medical cannabis and receive their rightful workers’ comp claim.

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When is a Forced Resignation OK in PA?

forced resignation

When is a Forced Resignation Ok in PA?

It is against the law for employers to force injured workers out of their jobs because they suffered a work injury and are pursuing workers’ compensation benefits.  In Pennsylvania, workers’ compensation provides both wage loss benefits and medical expenses to injured workers.  There is no fault with workers’ compensation benefits, and the benefits are provided to help injured workers who need to be out of work to recuperate, if possible.

Some employers may try to force out or terminate an injured worker all for what amounts to “monetary” reasons.  These could include replacing the worker and not waiting for them to recover, avoid paying workers’ compensation benefits, not accommodating medical based restrictions, and also avoid paying unemployment benefits.  See, if an employee voluntarily resigns, they are not eligible for unemployment benefits and furthermore, cannot pursue any wrongful termination lawsuit against their former employer.

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Giving Notice To Your Employer About Your Work Injury

notifying your employer of your work injury

GIVING YOUR EMPLOYER NOTICE OF YOUR WORK INJURY

All types of work can involve potential work injuries, even desk work.  It can be a small injury or a life-altering event.  If you or someone you know has suffered a work-related injury or occupational illness, it has to be reported to the employer.  This means that the work injury has to be reported to a boss, foreman, supervisor, owner of the company, i.e., someone who is in charge and not simply a co-worker.  To help yourself get the financial and medical benefits necessary for your work injury, do not doubt yourself – report your injury.  If you fail to report your work injury, this can and will be used against you.

How and When to Give to your Employer Notice

When you are injured at work in Pennsylvania, give notice to your employer quickly, no matter how small you think your injury is.  It is always good to document the incident, and even take photos of the work place injury scene, so that the facts can be easily recalled at a later date.  You can give notice by oral, text, or written form.

The Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act provides that you must give notice to your employer within 21 days from the work injury date.  If no notice is given within 120 days from the date of the injury, then all rights to benefits can be lost.  Help yourself by giving notice as soon as you can.

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Nurses in Pennsylvania Are at a High Risk of Workplace Injuries

nursing work injuries

Nurses in Pennsylvania Are at a High Risk of Workplace Injuries

Nurses working in Pennsylvania’s hospitals, nursing homes, and other healthcare facilities have a tough job to do. They provide a high level of care to the elderly and sick which can sometimes be detrimental to their own physical well-being.

They also have to see the most graphic and disturbing images. They also have to smell things that are atrocious. They also have to sometimes clean up messes that even some janitors in other settings would say is obscene.

To be a nurse is fraught with stress.

High Injury Rates for PA Healthcare Workers

Nurses as well as other healthcare employees are subject to higher rates of injury that various other worker groups in the US. In fact, in the case of nursing assistants, the rate of workplace injuries is three times that of other workers.

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Construction Workers in Pennsylvania Operate in Hazardous Conditions With a Risk of Severe Injuries

construction work injuries

Construction Workers in Pennsylvania Operate in Hazardous Conditions with a Risk of Severe Injuries

Although Pennsylvania ranks sixth in population, it has the third highest rate of workplace injuries.

Construction workers in PA have a high risk of severe injuries, since their job is highly hazardous. Figures published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics reveal that in 2015, the state reported 35 fatalities due to construction accidents.

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Supersedeas Can Effect your Workers’ Comp Benefits

workers compensation petition

WHAT IS SUPERSEDEAS AND HOW CAN THIS AFFECT YOUR PA WORKERS’ COMPENSATION BENEFITS?

You unfortunately had a work injury, but the good news is that your injury has been accepted by the workers’ compensation carrier, and you are receiving wage loss benefits, as well as medical benefits for your work injury.  Before we get to the issue of Supersedeas, at some point, you will receive a notice to attend a one-time examination, referred to as an Independent Medical Examination (IME), which you are required to attend by the workers’ compensation carrier.  Typically, you will be asked to attend these examinations once every six (6) months, as long as you are receiving wage loss benefits for your work injury; it is not a matter of if…..it is a matter of when.

After you have attended the IME with a physician of the workers’ compensation carrier’s choice, you should receive a copy of the IME report, and depending on what that physician said about your medical condition in regards to your work injury and your capability to return to some type of work, a Petition can be filed against you to try and stop your wage loss and/or medical benefits in some fashion.  These Petitions could include a Petition to Modify, Suspend, or Terminate your benefits.

Types of Workers’ Compensation Petitions

MODIFICATION PETITION

Let’s take a minute to understand what each of these Petitions are.  The Modification Petition will usually indicate that you are capable of some type of lighter work.  If this is the case, your employer will be contacted by the workers’ compensation carrier to see if there is work available in that capacity for you to return to and if the answer is “no”, the workers’ compensation carrier can hire a vocational expert to do an Earning Power Assessment/Labor Market Survey to find work generally available in your area that you would be capable of that would pay you wages less than you were earning at your job before your injury.  If the wages at the new available positions would be less than you earned pre-injury, this is referred to as a “modification” of benefits. If a workers’ compensation judge believed that you were capable of working these jobs, then your wage loss benefits could be modified, meaning you would receive less each week in your benefits.

SUSPENSION PETITION

With a Suspension Petition, the same scenario can play out as mentioned above, but if wages would be paid equal to your pre-injury pay, then your wage loss benefits would be “suspended” meaning that you could no longer receive any wage loss benefits, if a workers’ compensation judge believed that you were capable of working those positions.

TERMINATION PETITION

If the IME doctor believes that you are fully recovered from your work injury, then the workers’ compensation carrier will have their lawyer file a Termination Petition against you trying to stop all of your benefits, wage loss and medical.  With a Termination Petition, they don’t have to find any jobs for you to return to, just prove to a workers’ compensation judge that you are capable of doing any type of work, including your pre-injury job. If the assigned judge believes this, then your benefits will totally be terminated.

After a Petition is Filed

After one of these Petitions is filed, it will be assigned to a workers’ compensation judge and scheduled for a first hearing.  At this first hearing, the lawyer for your employer and the workers’ compensation carrier will present evidence of the IME report, a Notice of Ability to Return to Work (which is a Bureau form), and any other evidence they have to help prove their case.  This initial evidence is called “Supersedeas Evidence”, which can be hearsay evidence, not needing someone to testify about it, typically the IME doctor. A request for supersedeas is made by the employer/workers’ compensation carrier lawyer to the judge asking that your wage loss benefits be totally stopped during the litigation process.  Depending on the evidence provided, a judge could choose to grant or deny this request. If the supersedeas request is granted, then your wage loss benefits will come to an end. Please note that the supersedeas decision is not subject to appeal.

If the assigned judge denies the supersedeas request, then you will keep receiving your workers’ compensation checks until such time as you either settle your case, or a judge orders that your benefits be stopped.  If you receive a favorable supersedeas decision but end up losing the case in chief, ie, your benefits are modified, suspended, or terminated, the workers’ compensation carrier can apply for supersedeas fund reimbursement from the PA Bureau of Workers’ Compensation to get back the monies paid to you from the time that they filed the Petition against you.  You, as the injured worker do not have to be concerned about giving any monies back, as the Supersedeas Fund is there to reimburse the carrier.

If you or a loved one are in any phases of the above scenarios, please contact Robinson Law LLC for guidance and representation.