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Can You Get Workers’ Compensation Benefits Reinstated in Pennsylvania?

In a recent workers compensation case, a Pennsylvania restaurant petitioned for review of an order related to reinstatement of workers’ compensation benefits. The worker in the case had to drive and fly for his employer. He was involved in a car accident related to his work driving in 2002 and filed for workers’ compensation.

After a hearing, a workers’ compensation judge found he suffered a tight iliotibial band, bursitis, and joint strain because of his car accident. The judge concluded that a surgery he underwent had successfully treated the tight iliotibial band and bursitis.

The judge awarded the claimant benefits for the months prior to the surgery. He terminated benefits after that based on an independent medical examination. The doctor who performed the exam concluded the claimant was fully recovered from his work-related injuries. He noted that there was no evidence of joint dysfunction.

In 2008, the worker asked for a reinstatement of benefits. He claimed his work injuries had recurred and he was now totally disabled. At a hearing before the workers’ compensation judge, the worker testified that his symptoms had recurred since 2004. He claimed he had constant pain that worsened during the day. He also claimed he could only stand or drive for up to 30 minutes.

The surgeon who had previously operated on the site of the work injury evaluated the worker in 2005. He offered the worker injection therapy. The doctor found the condition was worse and the worker had difficulty performing daily tasks. The worker also tested positive for joint dysfunction — the joint was too loose because the ligaments around it had been damaged by trauma.

In 2008, the doctor noted the claimant’s bursitis had recurred. He injected the worker with cortisone. His opinion was that the bursitis had arisen from the joint dysfunction exacerbation.

The worker also saw a pain management specialist who testified on his behalf. The specialist had diagnosed him with joint dysfunction and piriformis muscle syndrome that waxed and waned. The doctor opined these injuries were caused by the work-related car accident in 2002.

The employer presented testimony from a doctor that had seen the worker in 2008 and found no pathology. The employer’s doctor found the bursa had grown back, but he denied the worker complained of pain when the bursa was palpitated. He concluded the worker was totally recovered.

The judge credited the worker’s witnesses and the worker’s own testimony and concluded his work injury had recurred. The employer appealed, but the appellate board affirmed. The employer appealed again.

The Commonwealth Court explained a worker seeking reinstatement must prove his disability has increased, recurred and his physical condition had changed. A worker can show this change by showing a return of symptoms that had previously stopped.

The employer argued that the workers’ witnesses were not competent or credible. For example, one of the doctors had admitted he never believed the worker was fully recovered. The employer argued that a medical opinion based on an assumption contrary to the evidence on the record is incompetent.

The court explained that in his testimony, the doctor specifically did assume the worker had fully recovered and found that the worker’s condition had worsened. The workers’ compensation judge’s decision was affirmed.

An experienced Pennsylvania workers’ compensation attorney can evaluate the facts of your particular case if you are hurt because of an entity’s negligence and bring a lawsuit on your behalf if appropriate. Contact the attorneys at Needle Law Firm at 570-344-1266 or via our online form for a free consultation.

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