Articles Posted in Workers’ Compensation

customer service employeeIn a legal action, sometimes achieving success is about successfully preventing your opposition from doing what the law says they cannot do as part of their case against you. For example, when an employer seeks an order ending an employee’s workers’ compensation benefits, the employer cannot go back and re-argue the issues decided in the original case. The ruling in favor of terminating benefits must not rely upon any conclusion that runs contrary to what was decided in that original case. For example, if the judge in your original case decided that you suffered a workplace injury, the basis for cutting off your benefits years later cannot be that you never suffered any workplace injury at all. When it comes to these and other elements of your case, it pays to have skilled Pennsylvania workers’ compensation counsel who can advance your arguments and protect your rights.

Kimberly was an employee whose employer attempted to make such an argument in her termination of workers’ compensation benefits case. Kimberly was a customer service operator for a major energy company. One day in 1996, the company received a bomb threat. The building was evacuated, but Kimberly’s supervisor told her to stay and continue taking calls. One month later, the employer received another bomb threat. After the second threat, Kimberly began suffering health problems. These included sleeplessness, hair loss, and fear of going to work. In 1999, a workers’ compensation judge concluded that Kimberly had suffered three threat-related mental injuries, including PTSD, depression, and panic disorder. The judge awarded her benefits.

Twelve years later, the employer asked for a termination of Kimberly’s benefits. An employer is entitled to seek and obtain an order cutting off your benefits if it has sufficient evidence that you have completely recovered from the injuries you suffered. Kimberly’s employer concluded that the former call-taker was fully recovered from the mental injuries she suffered in the 1990s. Regarding the woman’s panic disorder, the employer’s expert opined that she never had such a condition. Panic disorder, according to the expert, was caused by genetics rather than a specific trigger event (like the bomb threats). The expert noted that Kimberly had an unrelated heart condition and that the condition may have caused palpitations that seemed like symptoms of panic disorder but were not.

machine workerWhen you’ve been hurt at work, there are various different types of workers’ compensation benefits you can receive. One type of benefit is an award you can receive even after going back to work and is based upon the reduction in earnings you suffered as a result of your injury. When you are seeking this or another type of workers’ compensation benefits, a knowledgeable Pennsylvania workers’ compensation attorney can help in navigating the system and getting the full award to which you are entitled under the law.

For an example of a worker who obtained this type of benefit, there is a recent Commonwealth Court opinion in the case of Jesse, an employee at a machinery assembly facility. In May 2013, he injured the middle finger on his right hand. The employer acknowledged Jesse’s entitlement to temporary workers’ compensation benefits. Eventually, Jesse returned to work. The employer filed a request seeking to suspend the employee’s workers’ compensation benefits because, it argued, the worker had returned to his pre-injury job, and any loss in wages was a result of an economic downturn rather than the man’s work injury. The employer brought in evidence that its other employees who were “similarly situated” to Jesse were earning roughly the same wages he received after his return to work.

The law says that you, as a worker, can be entitled to continue receiving workers’ compensation benefits even after you return to work in certain situations. To be eligible, you must continue to have an ongoing disability, you must have suffered a reduction in earnings at work, and your work-related disability must be the cause of that reduction in earnings.

massageWhen you’re hurt at work, the injury you suffer could affect you in many ways. One of these ways is the considerable expenses that your injury may cause you to rack up. Sometimes, those services that you’ll need may involve physical therapy or rehabilitation. Other times, they might involve things like massage therapy. Regardless of what your post-injury needs were, what you obviously want from your workers’ compensation claim is an award of benefits that fully compensates you for the expenses you incurred. To achieve this goal, it is important that you work with an experienced Pennsylvania workers’ compensation attorney to seek the full award of expenses that your injury cost you.

One example of a worker who was successful recently was Leslie, a worker for the state Department of Transportation. While working for PennDOT, the man suffered an injury to his lower back. The department issued something called a “notice of compensation payable,” which is the document through which the employer or insurer states that you suffered a workplace injury and the employer or insurer acknowledges its legal responsibility.

Workers’ compensation benefits can cover a variety of losses. Obviously, you can receive an award of benefits to cover wages that you lost because you were disabled (either temporarily or permanently) and unable to work. You can also receive an award of benefits to cover the cost of medical care as well as medical devices that you required as a result of your workplace injury.

workerWhen you’ve been hurt on the job, you may find yourself in need of workers’ compensation benefits. If you need to file a claim for benefits, there are several things you need. One is compelling and persuasive medical evidence. Another is strong representation from an experienced Pennsylvania workers’ compensation attorney.

A recent ruling from the Commonwealth Court offers an example of a case in which the worker’s medical expert was key. That case involved a claim filed by Paul, a carpenter whose job involved building, modifying, and removing scaffolding. On the night shift, the work demands were intense. During the first quarter of 2014, Paul worked 13 days on and one day off every two weeks, working 10-12 hours each day on the night shift.

The more Paul worked, the more swollen his hands became. The carpenter notified his night-shift supervisor that he was having problems with his hands. Eventually, Paul switched back to the day shift, but his hands remained swollen, painful, and tingly. Eventually, he sought medical treatment. He brought a doctor’s note to his employer in May 2014. Two hours later, the employer laid Paul off.

Rooftop HVAC UnitWhen you’re hurt on the job, the injury you suffer could have major negative impacts on your life. Because of that, an award of workers’ compensation benefits can be an important part of recovery from your injuries. Sometimes, you may be concerned that, if you made a less-than-perfect decision that played a role in your injury, you cannot obtain benefits. You should never simply assume you have no case. In many instances, you may still be entitled to an award of benefits. Always talk to an experienced Pennsylvania workers’ compensation attorney first.

A case from this past summer demonstrates how you can still recover benefits even if you got hurt as a result of your own poor decision. Robert was an HVAC mechanic working a job in Newtown. Robert’s job included cleaning condenser coils in air conditioning units. Most of those units were on the roofs of buildings. One June day, Robert arrived at work and got up on the roof, using a ladder placed on the building by roofers who were also working on the building.

When Robert finished his work, he gathered his tools and noticed that the roofers were gone, and so was their ladder. Robert had a cell phone, but he didn’t call anyone. He merely waited a half-hour and, after that time, walked to an area of the roof that was over a bed of mulch and only 16-20 feet off the ground. Thinking he could land safely, the mechanic jumped. Robert was wrong, and he suffered multiple fractures. He eventually required surgery to insert screws and plates into each of his heels. His doctor concluded that it could require up to two years of rehabilitation.

truck crashThere are many potential pitfalls that can await an injured worker who pursues a claim for workers’ compensation benefits. One of these pitfalls, if the worker is injured while on the road, is often something called the “going and coming rule,” which denies benefits to workers hurt while commuting to or from work. This rule is not ironclad, and there are exceptions, however, that may permit a worker to win an award of benefits even if he was on the way to or from work when the accident happened. By retaining skilled Pennsylvania workers’ compensation counsel, you can make sure you are equipped to deal with and potentially overcome the pitfalls that might lead to an unsuccessful outcome.

One recent example of a worker who overcame the going and coming rule was the case of a demolition worker named Shawn. The Commonwealth Court’s opinion in Shawn’s case provides a very useful set of insights regarding what it takes to put together a successful workers’ compensation case. In this case, Shawn was a man who did work such as tearing out floors, walls, and ceilings for a cleanout and junk removal business. As the court explained in its opinion, you, as the injured worker who has filed a claim for workers’ compensation benefits, have the initial obligation to prove to the court that your claim meets all of the requirements imposed by the law for an award of benefits. One of those criteria is that you had to have been “in the course and scope of employment” when your injury took place. In other words, you must have been “on the job” and doing something for the benefit of your employer’s business when you got hurt. You do not need to have been on your employer’s premises when the injury occurred.

As a general rule, any injury that happens while you are commuting to or from work is not considered “in the course and scope of employment.” Thus, an injury that happens while you’re commuting to or from work will, in many cases, not permit you to recover workers’ compensation benefits. This rule, as with many in the law, is not true 100% of the time. There are exceptions. These can include your having a job in which your employment contract includes transportation to and from work, situations in which you have no fixed place of work, an injury that happens because you were on a special assignment from your employer, or other special circumstances in which you were “furthering the business of the employer.”

construction workersIn any type of case, it obviously helps if you have evidence that is both very believable and persuasive. This includes the expert witnesses who give testimony in your case. Helping you in putting together a workers’ compensation case that is both compelling and convincing is one of the key benefits of working with a knowledgeable Pennsylvania workers’ compensation attorney.

An example of this in action was the case of Andrew, a man who did drywall, ceiling, and concrete work. One day in 2014, Andrew was hurt unloading plastic corrugated pipe. Even though Andrew was wearing a hard hat, when the pipe hit his head, he felt a burning sensation “like a torch” on the back of his neck.

A few weeks later, still experiencing ongoing pain, Andrew went to his doctor. Eventually, Andrew saw a specialist who did an MRI and found two spinal problems – a herniated disc and a bulging disc. These two issues were a result of the pipe smacking Andrew in the head, in the doctor’s opinion.

signatureIn workers’ compensation cases, as with almost any type of litigation matter, sometimes circumstances may dictate that it makes sense for you, as an injured worker, to settle your case. Settlement provides you with the certainty of a payout while avoiding the time, stress, and uncertainty involved in a legal contest. One way to settle your workers’ compensation case is by signing a Compromise & Release (C&R) agreement. An experienced Pennsylvania workers’ compensation attorney can help you decide whether or not settling your case with a C&R agreement is a good move for you.

One recent case highlighting how this process works, and how important each provision in your C&R agreement can be, was the workers’ compensation action filed by Thomas, an employee of a communication company in Chester County. Thomas suffered serious injuries when he fell off a building while on the job. The fall broke both his feet, in addition to inflicting other injuries. The employee filed for workers’ compensation benefits.

Thomas decided to settle his case and sign a C&R agreement. In any C&R agreement you sign, it is very important that the document describe your injuries accurately and in a way that will cover everything related to your workplace accident. The agreement Thomas signed indicated that the covered injuries were ““[v]arious injuries and bodily parts including but not necessarily limited to fractured right and left feet” and that the employer agreed to “pay for all reasonable and necessary medical expenses that are related to the… acknowledged work-related injury.”

marketSettlements can, in some circumstances, be very beneficial ways to resolve certain types of cases. Settlements may allow you to avoid the stress and time almost inevitably expended on a lengthy litigation process. They may also allow you to get THE compensation you need on a more expedited basis. It is important to keep in mind, however, that a settlement may not be the best move for everyone in every case. In some cases, depending on their particular facts, it may be better for you to go forward and litigate your case. An experienced Pennsylvania workers’ compensation attorney can help you make these and other vital choices.

Take, as an example, the case of Craig, who worked for a farmers’ market in Reading. One summer day in 2014, Craig got hurt at work. The injured man wisely took prompt action, including filing a claim for workers’ compensation benefits. He also took a leave from work for roughly one week. Eventually, Craig made it back to work on August 26, but, two weeks later, the employer fired him.

Eight months after the injury, Craig and the employer resolved the workers’ compensation claim through something called a “Compromise & Release Agreement.” This type of agreement, sometimes called “C&R” for short, essentially formalizes the terms of the settlement of your workers’ compensation case.

police lightsWhen you are hurt on the job, you may have several different opportunities for recovery. There may be workers’ compensation benefits. There may be civil judgments. There may be insurance settlements. One of the keys to realizing a full and fair recovery is making sure that, if you get paid from multiple different sources, your employer doesn’t use this in an attempt to obtain reimbursement for things it paid, like workers’ compensation benefits. This is one of many ways in which experienced Pennsylvania workers’ compensation lawyers can help you.

One recent example of a worker receiving multiple payments was the case of Michael, a patrol officer for a police department in the greater Philadelphia area. In late November 2013, he was injured in a vehicle accident that took place while he was on duty. The employer acknowledged that the officer’s injury was compensable under workers’ compensation. Six weeks after the accident, Michael was back on the job, with no loss in earnings.

As a police officer, Michael was in a somewhat unique position. Pennsylvania has something called the Heart and Lung Act. This act calls for the payment of the full salaries of police officers and fire fighters who are disabled as a result of injuries incurred on duty. Police officers and fire fighters are eligible for benefits under both the Heart and Lung Act and the Workers’ Compensation Act. The workers’ compensation benefits you accrue while you’re receiving your full salary as Heart and Lung benefits, however, are turned over to your employer. In this case, the police department maintained separate accounts for paying workers’ compensation and Heart and Lung Act benefits. Michael received $9,100 of Heart and Lung benefits.