Being injured at work can be a frightening event. One worries how they are going to provide for their family. Expending much of their energy in attempting to recover, sometimes from life altering injuries, without risking their standing with their employer. When someone is hurt on the job many employees are hesitant to file a workers’ compensation claim due to fear of retaliation. This can be misguided, as a claim can protect you, especially in a situation where your ability to do your job well is affected.
In PA, workers’ compensation claims vary depending on complexity, case load, and the actions taken by the employer. There is no hard and fast guideline for how long your claim may take to proceed through the litigation process. Needless to say, if you have a complex injury or the claim is hotly contested by your employer and their workers’ compensation carrier, your claim could be in litigation for a year or more, if appealed. The good news is that most claims do not take this long and most employers do not wish to spend money to fight small claims. However, adherence to a few time tables will help your claim move smoothly and reduce the amount of time your claim experiences inaction.
The first thing you must do when you are injured is notify your employer promptly. An injury should be reported within days. If you wait more than 120 days from the date of injury, you will be barred from seeking compensation, regardless of the severity of the injury. Within 21 days of the notice to the employer of an injury, the employer must report the injury to their workers’ compensation carrier, it will be assigned to an adjustor who will decide how to handle the claim. Your employer may accept or deny the claim, or issue a temporary compensation notice in order to extend the investigation period for 90 days, at which time the claim will either be accepted or denied.
If your claim is denied and your employer refuses to accept liability, you have three years to appeal by filing a Claim Petition. In some circumstances, if some payments were issued under the claim, then stopped, you have three years from the date of the last wage loss payment issued, to file a Reinstatement Petition.
Once this petition is filed, your claim will be assigned a Workers’ Compensation Judge and hearings will be scheduled. The time period for litigation on your claim will vary depending on the schedule of the assigned Workers’ Compensation Judge. During the litigation process, the parties are given the opportunity to participate in a Mandatory or a Voluntary Mediation, in an attempt to settle your case. If your case does not settle, the assigned Workers’ Compensation Judge will issue a Decision, which can be appealed within 20 days from the date of circulation to the Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board. Time is of the essence, but remember, most claims progress smoothly, if you have representation from an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer.