The Medical Evidence You Need to Succeed in Your Pennsylvania Claim for Workers’ Compensation Benefits
When 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.
Paul filed a claim for workers’ compensation benefits. When you’re pursuing a claim for workers’ compensation benefits, you’ll generally need persuasive medical evidence in order to succeed and get a workers’ compensation award. Paul had the testimony of a board-certified hand surgeon, whom the carpenter had seen in May 2014. At that time, Paul complained of pain and numbness. The surgeon eventually determined, and testified at Paul’s hearing, that the carpenter had carpal tunnel syndrome, osteoarthritis, and something called SLAC wrist, which is a pattern of wrist misalignment. The surgeon concluded that the carpenter already suffered from these conditions, but his job had aggravated them.
The workers’ compensation judge in the carpenter’s case was persuaded and issued a ruling that Paul’s job (specifically, the increased hours he worked while he was on the night shift) had worsened his existing wrist problems and that Paul could not return to his pre-injury work. The judge issued an award in favor of Paul in the amount of $932 per week.
In your workers’ compensation case, it is important that your medical expert evidence be definitive. If your expert’s testimony leaves open uncertainty, or “equivocates,” that may trigger an unsuccessful result. In Paul’s case, his employer, in its appeal, attacked the testimony of Paul’s surgeon, claiming that the doctor equivocated, and, based on that, the judge should have ruled against Paul.
The Commonwealth Court upheld the ruling in favor of the carpenter. The court explained that a worker seeking benefits must present unequivocal medical evidence on the issue of causation. In other words, the evidence must be definitive that the workplace injury you’ve alleged in your claim did, in fact, cause the harm your doctor diagnosed. A doctor’s testimony that equivocates on diagnosis, but not on causation, does not necessarily doom the worker’s case. It may potentially make the doctor’s testimony less persuasive, but it does not necessarily lead to a denial of benefits.
What does all of this mean for you as an injured worker? This ruling in favor of this carpenter highlights just how important it is to make sure that you have exactly the right kind of medical evidence to back up your claim for benefits. To make sure that you get the benefits you deserve after you’ve been hurt at work, talk to the skilled Pennsylvania workers’ compensation attorneys at Needle Law Firm. Our team has been providing knowledgeable representation and personalized attention to our clients for many years and is here to discuss your claim with you.
Contact us today for a free, no-obligation consultation by calling 570-344-1266.