Paula Robinson's Blog for Workers Compensation & Disability

Traveling Employees Beware of Drowsy Driving

Safe driving

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?  Click to read the complete Legislation, please click the link below.

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.

Organize Your Medical Information for Your PA Workers’ Compensation Case

Workers' Comp Lawyer

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. Read More

Road to Recovery With Physical Therapy After A Work Injury

Workers' Compensation

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.

Therapy 

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.

 

 

3 Simple Reminders of Traffic Safety

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.   Read More

The Breakdown of Burden of Proof in Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation

Work Injury Form

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. Read More

Can I File a Claim Petition on My Own

workers' compensation claim

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.  Read More

Digging Safety in PA – Resident & Professionals

tips for safe digging

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.

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

workers' comp coverage

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).

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Ethics of Claiming Income & Working Legally

workers comp claiming tips

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 PA.gov website.]

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When It Pays to Complain

workers comp claim

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.

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