Articles Posted in Workers’ Compensation

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.

commutersIn your workers’ compensation case, there may be many hurdles that you need to clear in order to obtain benefits. For a lot of workers hurt on the road, one hurdle is establishing that your injury occurred in the scope of your employment and that the going and coming rule doesn’t prevent you from recovering benefits. For the relatives of one deceased restaurant manager-in-training, they were able to succeed because they persuaded the Commonwealth Court that the circumstances of their deceased relative’s employment were such that an exception to the going and coming rule applied and allowed them to win their case. These rules, and the exceptions to them, highlight the strong need for having a knowledgeable Pennsylvania workers’ compensation attorney on your side when you are pursuing your case.

The facts of the manager’s case were truly horrific. Mandeep was a manager-in-training for a company that was a franchisee of Dunkin’ Donuts. The employer owned three Dunkin’ Donuts in the Philadelphia area. Mandeep worked mostly at the Wyncote, Pa. location, but, late one night in November 2010, he received a call stating that a kitchen employee at the Hatfield, Pa. store had fallen ill. Mandeep stated that he would go check out the situation. On the way to Hatfield, though, Mandeep and a fellow employee were involved in a car crash. Mandeep died two days later.

Mandeep’s parents filed a fatal claim petition under workers’ compensation. The key issue in Mandeep’s family’s case was the proper legal categorization of his trip to the Hatfield Dunkin’ Donuts that night. Generally, in a workers’ compensation case, the law requires that the employee be acting in the “course and scope of his employment.” The law has also created something called the “going and coming rule.” This rule basically says that, in general, when you are commuting to and from your job, you are not acting “in the course and scope of” your employment.

Supreme CourtThe Pennsylvania Supreme Court issued a landmark ruling this summer in the area of workers’ compensation. That ruling has effectively ended the process of forcing injured workers to undergo medical impairment evaluations whose results were governed by a set of American Medical Association guidelines that often produced poor results for workers seeking to qualify for total disability. This major change in the law is just one more example of why, when you’re facing a workers’ compensation issue, you need knowledgeable Pennsylvania workers’ compensation attorneys working on your side who are up-to-date on all of the aspects of the law.

The plaintiff in that Supreme Court case, Mary Ann, worked as a hall monitor for a western Pennsylvania school district. One day, she fell while working and suffered a knee injury as a result of her fall. At first, the employer voluntarily paid her temporary total disability payments. Some time thereafter, the school district had the employee undergo an “impairment-rating evaluation,” a common step in the process. The doctor who examined the monitor gave her an impairment rating of 10%. The doctor, in making that conclusion, relied upon the AMA Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment, as required by the law.

Since that rating number was below 50%, the school district sought to convert Mary Ann’s status to partially disabled, which would have capped the length of time when she would have received workers’ compensation payments.

According to Pennsylvania law, the “coming and going rule” maintains that workers who are commuting to and from their place of employment, and suffer injuries, are not entitled to compensation.  This rule has been maintained throughout the Commonwealth, but there are exceptions that may apply. If an exception does apply, an experienced Pennsylvania workers’ compensation attorney can petition for the court to in fact hold that the commute was “within the course of employment.” The injured worker would then be eligible for benefits under the law.

Exceptions to the general rule that workers injured during their commute are not eligible for benefits were analyzed in a recent case.  The court there held that the claim for benefits should be denied, since the employee in that case was injured while dispatched to one of several potential work sites.  The court held that she did not have no fixed place of work, within the meaning of the exception for the “going and coming” rule.

In fact, the exceptions to the going and coming rule are:

Recently, the Occupational Safety Health Administration (OSHA) of the United States Department of Labor issued a news release indicating that the Administration had fined a Pennsylvania hospital $32,000 for exposing employees to workplace violence and other hazards. These findings were a result of the agency’s inspection, conducted over the course of more than one year. OSHA had received a complaint that made clear employees had been exposed to workplace violence and did not have clear access to restrooms.

Under the General Duty Clause, OSHA cited the Psychiatric Hospital for violations. This clause indicates that every employer must provide a workplace free of recognized hazards that are likely to cause death or injuries. Additionally, the Clause requires that employers comply with occupational safety and health standards and rules, according to the OSH Act of 1970.

Specifically, the investigation of the psychiatric hospital by OSHA found that the hospital had a number of incidents in which violence had been committed by patients against employees. In some cases, the employees were bit, scratched, or punched, and in other situations, they were struck with objects, often leading to serious injuries. According to the citations, nurses and mental health technicians who provided inpatient care were exposed to serious physical injuries.

A “specific loss” benefit is available to workers who lose a body part, according to the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act, “for all practical intents and purposes.”  For injured workers, it can be challenging to prove a specific loss injury, which is a permanent injury.  It is considered a question of fact, to be determined by a workers’ compehandnsation judge, whether an injury has led to the permanent loss of the use of a member, including a hand.  Then, to determine whether the loss is permanent, for all intents and purposes, requires looking at the law and assessing medical evidence supporting such a loss.

A recent Pennsylvania workers’ compensation case dealt with this exact issue, when a worker had hurt his thumb, index, and middle fingers while he was using a table saw in the course and scope of his employment.  He sought benefits from his employer, including for the specific loss of his index fingers.

Supporting evidence in a workers’ compensation claim may include the worker’s own testimony, hospital records, and medical testimony.  In this specific case, the injured worker had provided his own testimony, as well as hospital records that showed he significantly injured his index fingers.  While the worker had retained his finger, it had received two pins that were eventually removed.  His finger was greatly damaged and had limited use.  The worker explained that he could not do “almost anything” with his right hand and that he could not perform construction work.

medical officeIn their list of Frequently Asked Questions, the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry makes clear that whether an employee has a choice of health care provider depends upon whether their employer has accepted their claim and posted in the workplace a list of providers.  According to the Workers’ Compensation Act, Pennsylvania law requires that employers post a listing of health care providers that are not necessarily doctors, and the listing must meet certain requirements.  Provided the employer has met this requirement, treatment may be covered for the first 90 days.

A “proper” listing of health care providers, also deemed a “panel posting,” must have at least six providers. Of the total providers, at least three must be doctors, with their identifying name, address, contact info, and specialty stated.  Providers listed must be in the nearby vicinity, accessible to injured employees.  Additionally, the specifics regarding the list state that it must be prominently displayed, and the employer must have the worker’s signature that they were made aware of the list at the time they were hired or after their injury.

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