Overcoming Your Employer’s Attempt to Terminate Your Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Benefits
In 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.
The judge ruled in favor of the employer. Kimberly was able to obtain a reversal of that ruling in her appeal to the Commonwealth Court. The success of Kimberly’s appeal is an important lesson when it comes to fighting against an employer’s attempt to terminate your workers’ compensation benefits.
In Kimberly’s original case, the workers’ compensation judge made a ruling that she suffered three workplace injuries: PTSD, depression, and panic disorder. The employer’s expert in the termination case opined that the employee had recovered from the first two injuries and never had panic disorder at all. The judge relied upon this testimony to rule against the employee. That was improper because the original judge had already made a ruling that Kimberly did suffer a panic disorder related to the bomb threats. The judge in the termination case was not entitled to credit the expert’s opinion that Kimberly never had panic disorder and to deny her benefits because of it. The judge could only deny her benefits based upon her having recovered from her panic disorder, but the judge didn’t make any such ruling to that effect.
When it comes to your workers’ compensation case, reach out to the knowledgeable Pennsylvania workers’ compensation attorneys at Needle Law Firm. We have been providing determined representation and personalized attention to our workers’ compensation clients for many years and are here to discuss your matter with you.
Contact us today for a free, no-obligation consultation by calling 570-344-1266.