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.