Paula Robinson's Blog for Workers Compensation & Disability

How Opioids are Affecting Workers’ Comp in PA

Opioids Workers' Compensation

Research has shown that injured workers who are administered higher doses of opioids for pain relief end up spending more time off work following their injury than those who are prescribed low-dose or non-opioid painkillers. 

The National Safety Council has cited a study which revealed that administering opioids for one week soon after a worker’s injury will double the risk of the worker not returning to the workplace even one year after the injury. 

Increased Workers’ Comp Claim Costs

The challenge with opioid use is that the patient can quickly develop a tolerance to it. In other words, an injured worker using opioids is more likely to require incrementally higher doses of the drug to maintain the same effect. As the worker uses more of the opioid, it increases sedation and reduces their ability to work. This can result in delayed return to the workplace, which in turn means higher lost wages for the injured worker. 

According to a study conducted by Johns Hopkins University published in the Claims Magazine, long-acting opioids were associated with a nine-fold jump in the average workers’ comp claim costs. These additional costs could also include treatment for opioid dependency and addiction.

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The Dangers of Nurses And Sleeplessness

Nurses Sleep

Healthcare facilities often have to provide round-the-clock patient care. As a result, nursing staff are exposed to shift work as well as long working hours, which increases the risk of sleep disturbances and sleeplessness. 

Pressures of the nursing profession take their toll, and as many as one-third of healthcare workers in PA report that they don’t obtain a sufficient amount of sleep.  

Challenges of Inadequate Sleep for Nurses

Researchers have associated getting regular sleep of 7 to 8 hours every night, with a reduced risk of diabetes, obesity, hypertension, myocardial infarction, sleep apnea, and cerebral vascular accidents, apart from a lower risk of workplace injuries. 

Nursing staff in hospitals as well as long-term care facilities often have to sleep at irregular times as well as during periods that are not in sync with circadian rhythms. This misalignment leads to problems with disturbed sleep, falling asleep while working, early awakenings and frequent arousals during sleep. 

This results in poor sleep quality and shortened sleep duration. Competing demands of workplace and home as well as inadequate rest between work shifts increase the worker’s health risks. 

In addition, financial pressures may push a nurse to work longer hours or take on a second job. For these reasons, healthcare ranks in second place among all industrial sectors for the number of workers reporting insufficient sleep duration. 

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What is a Termination of Worker’s Compensation Benefits?

Workers' Compensation

Termination of Worker’s Comp Benefits

The first sign that your workers’ compensation wage loss benefits may be in jeopardy is when you receive in the mail a notice for you to attend an Independent Medical Examination (IME). This is a quick one-time examination by a physician of the workers’ compensation carrier’s choice. Keep in mind that the physician is paid directly by the carrier, and in most instances will find a way to side with the workers’ compensation carrier’s position that there is nothing wrong with you regarding your work injury and that you are fully recovered from your work injury.

After a Workers’ Compensation Carrier receives the Independent Medical Examination (IME) report and if it states a full recovery of your work injury,  the Workers’ Compensation Carrier will hire an attorney to file a Termination Petition against you, the injured worker, in an attempt to stop all of your wage loss and medical workers’ compensation benefits that you are receiving.

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What is an IME (Independent Medical Evaluation)?

Workers' Compensation

What is an IME?

An Independent Medical Evaluation, also known as an IME, is scheduled by the Workers’ Compensation Carrier to evaluate the injured workers’ current medical status.  This medical exam is performed by a doctor, relevant to your injury, selected by the insurance carrier – which is ‘independent’ from the doctor currently treating you. So, for example, if you have a back injury and are treating with an orthopedic surgeon, you would be sent to an orthopedic surgeon.

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What is a Notice of Compensation Payable (NCP)?

Workers' Compensation

What is a notice of compensation payable?

Once an employer sends the Workers’ Compensation Carrier notice of your work injury they have 21 days to respond in the form of a Denial or Notice of Compensation Payable. The notice should come in the form of a letter via the postal mail. Whether denied or accepted, I always advise to consult a Workers’ Compensation attorney to review your case and be prepared to respond when necessary.

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

Labor Day

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

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 to be eligible for workers’ comp benefits?

How Long Do I Have

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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