Articles Posted in Workers’ Compensation

HipWhen you seek to receive workers’ compensation benefits, there are several key hurdles in your case. There is your original claim and an award of benefits. After that, you face another important hurdle if your employer makes a request to cut off your benefits. At all of these steps, it is very important to make certain you have a knowledgeable Pennsylvania workers’ compensation attorney on your side to ensure that you get all of the benefits that you deserve.

Marguerite was an employee who succeeded in obtaining benefits and overcoming an employer’s request to cut off those benefits after approximately 12 months. Marguerite worked at a county jail in western Pennsylvania. During a scuffle, an inmate and two co-workers fell onto Marguerite, injuring her right knee. The fall left the employee with torn cartilage in her right knee. That tear eventually required surgery, which took place eight months after the accident.

According to Marguerite, the right knee injury wasn’t her only harm. The fall also caused injuries to her right hip, right side, low back, and left knee. She allegedly complained of hip and groin pain right after the accident. Additional medical treatment eventually revealed torn cartilage in the employee’s hip. Marguerite’s doctor diagnosed the hip cartilage as being a result of (or a condition aggravated by) the workplace accident.

baggage handlerIn many workers’ compensation cases, both sides may have medical experts, and these opposing doctors’ testimony may be the key to succeeding or not. Having a doctor whose testimony is believable and persuasive is essential. Whether it is accumulating and presenting expert witness testimony or some other variety of important evidence, a knowledgeable Pennsylvania workers’ compensation attorney can help you make the compelling presentation you need for a successful result.

A recent example of a worker with persuasive medical expert evidence, who used that evidence to win his case, was Michael, a ramp agent/baggage handler for a major airline. Michael had held this job for 35 years when he was hurt in 2014. Originally, the handler simply listed the new injury he suffered in 2014 in his workers’ compensation claim. The law, however, gives you the opportunity to amend your claim in certain situations, and Michael took advantage of this, amending his claim to assert that the 2014 injury was an aggravation of a pre-existing injury, namely his avascular necrosis and early degenerative joint disease of the right hip.

One of the vital things that you have to prove in any workers’ compensation claim is that the injury you suffered was work-related. To support this assertion, it often helps to have medical expert evidence. Michael used his treating physician, who testified that the pre-existing avascular necrosis contributed to the fracture of the thigh bone that the handler suffered in 2014.

Pennsylvania Workers' Compensation BenefitsWhen you are injured and successfully pursue a claim for workers’ compensation benefits, that may not be the “end of the line” for your case. Your employer may choose to make attempts to have your benefits cut off. In order to do that, though, the employer must persuade the judge that a change has occurred in your medical condition and that this change means that you are able to return to work. Whether you are pursuing your claim for benefits or opposing an attempt to terminate your benefits, it helps to have experienced Pennsylvania workers’ compensation counsel fighting to protect your rights and benefits.

The case of Adrian serves as an example of what an employer has to do to get a termination of a worker’s benefits. Adrian was hurt while on the job in Philadelphia. She suffered cervical, dorsal, and lumbar strains due to a vehicle accident that occurred while she was on the job. Adrian filed a claim in 2012, and the workers’ compensation judge awarded her benefits.

Some time later, the employer filed an action seeking the termination of Adrian’s benefits, but the judge refused to end the benefits. In 2014, the employer filed another request to end Adrian’s benefits. This time, after the worker underwent an independent medical exam, the judge concluded that the woman had fully recovered from her accident-induced back injury and was capable of returning to her pre-injury job.

workers comp caseWhen you pursue a claim for workers’ compensation benefits, your employer will likely oppose your claim aggressively. This may include challenging your testimony as well as the testimony of your medical experts. You should prepare to be ready for the vigorous opposition you will face. A knowledgeable Pennsylvania workers’ compensation attorney can help you strengthen your case and present a persuasive claim.

In your workers’ compensation case, your medical expert may be one of the keys to your success. In the case of Donna, a patient care technician at a hospital in western Pennsylvania, she sustained an injury while she was helping an obese patient to the bathroom. The patient, while attempting to stand to travel to the bathroom, fell. That caused both women to collapse, with Donna hitting a nearby wall. Initially, the injury was thought to be limited to the technician’s left shoulder, where she had suffered a strain.

Donna, however, actually experienced pain in her whole back and left shoulder. Just a week after starting physical therapy, she began noticing problems in her lower back. The technician’s doctor performed x-rays and eventually diagnosed her with nerve inflammation, muscle strain, and a disc protrusion in her lower back.

x-raySometimes, when you’re hurt at work, it can be pretty obvious that your injury was work-related and that you potentially have a claim for workers’ compensation benefits. Other times, however, the facts surrounding your injury may not be so clear. Regardless of the details of your injury, if you’ve been hurt at work, you should reach out to an experienced Pennsylvania workers’ compensation attorney to discuss your case and make sure you are fully protecting your rights.

Nicole’s workplace injury case was actually two, one of which was somewhat unique. The transit authority cashier was visiting the restroom when she noticed a cockroach on her shirt. Not unlike many of us, Nicole freaked out, panicking, thrashing, and twisting to try to get away from the bug. The next morning, with the adrenaline long gone, the employee noticed a throbbing in her leg and a large lump on her left knee.

The cashier also had another problem:  she had begun experiencing pain and numbness in her right arm. Beginning in the fall of 2013, Nicole began seeing a doctor about both her knee and her wrist issues. Regarding the woman’s knee, the doctor diagnosed her as having suffered a work-related sprain/strain and an aggravation of a pre-existing degenerative knee condition. The doctor also diagnosed the woman with a wrist sprain/strain and carpal tunnel syndrome.

airportIn employees’ workers’ compensation cases, there are certain commonplace and frequently used arguments that employers will deploy in an effort to succeed and avoid paying benefits. One of these is that the employee’s injury did not take place in the “course and scope of her employment.” That legal language means that the worker wasn’t actually “on the job,” or doing any action that benefited the employer, when the accident happened. There are various ways allowed by the law to still recover an award of benefits even if you were not “on the clock” when your accident occurred. For advice about these and other workplace injury issues, talk to an experienced Pennsylvania workers’ compensation attorney about your case.

One employee who faced this “course and scope of her employment” argument in her case, and overcame it, was Betty, a Philadelphia-based flight attendant working for a major airline. One January night, after completing her shift traveling to Miami and back, the flight attendant caught a shuttle bus to the employee parking lot. As Betty tried to put her suitcase on the luggage rack, her right foot hit water and slipped out from under her. That caused her left knee to buckle. She then fell backward, crushing her left foot underneath her.

Five months later, the flight attendant filed a claim for workers’ compensation benefits. The flight attendant’s employer argued that she was not acting in the “course and scope” of her employment when she was on the shuttle bus, so she was not entitled to benefits. The judge in Betty’s workers’ compensation hearing, however, ruled in favor of the flight attendant. The judge concluded that the flight attendant was injured on her employer’s premises, that her presence on the shuttle bus was required by the nature of her job, and that her injury was caused by the condition of the bus.

acupunctureIn your Pennsylvania workers’ compensation case, it is important to be aware of which kinds of treatments may entitle you to an award of benefits, and which may not. Specifically, it is important to be aware that a treatment doesn’t necessarily have to cure or permanently improve your medical condition in order to be something that allows you to obtain an award of benefits. Simple management of pain can be enough, even if the positive effects of the treatment last only a couple of days. To make sure that you are getting the full award to which you are entitled, be sure to retain an experienced Pennsylvania workers’ compensation attorney.

The case of Anthony, an employee of the YMCA, was a recent example of how even short-term benefits could be the basis of a winning case. Anthony suffered a work-related disc herniation in his neck. The employee’s treating physician was a licensed doctor, board certified in “physical medicine and rehabilitation.” The doctor was also a licensed acupuncturist. The course of treatment that the doctor prescribed and carried out for Anthony included a muscle relaxant and also acupuncture.

Eventually, the employer and its insurer requested what’s called a “utilization review.” This type of review is a tool, provided within Pennsylvania’s workers’ compensation law, that allows an employer to request a review of medical treatment provided to an injured worker. Employers may often exert their option to request a utilization review as a means of trying to save money on a case.

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.