Workers’ Compensation FAQ
Workers’ compensation laws protect people who are injured on the job. It is imperative to familiarize yourself with the workers’ compensation system because the last thing you need when you’re stuck in a tricky legal battle is the added stress of learning complex legal jargon.
Here are some answers to common questions you might have.
What is workers’ compensation?
In general, an employee with a work-related injury or illness can get workers’ compensation benefits regardless of who was the one at fault, whether that’s the employee, the employer, a customer or a third party.
Who qualifies for workers’ compensation benefits?
If you get hurt on the job, you are entitled to appropriate compensation for your injuries. That’s the law. Your benefits may include:
- Lost wages for missed work
- Medical expenses reasonable to treat the injury or illness
- Benefits to cover a specific loss, such as a limb or the ability to use it
- Payment for severe disfigurement or scars
- Coverage for participation in certain physical or vocational rehabilitation programs
- Death benefits, such as payment of burial expenses (where applicable)
What are the types of workers’ compensation claims?
There are many types of workers’ compensation claims and the process is complicated. We will help you decide on the right petition for your circumstance and file your claim successfully. Here are some types to consider:
- Loss of Wages Petition – Requests compensation payments for missed work time, or inability to continue to perform at work due to partial or total disability.
- Scar Petition – Requests compensation payments for one or more scars to the head, face, or neck.
- Specific Loss Petition – Requests compensation payments for loss of a limb or other body part, or loss of use of a body part.
- Reinstatement Petition – If your claim is in suspended status (you do not receive wage loss benefits but you are receiving medical benefits for your injury), one of our experienced workers’ compensation attorneys can help you file a reinstatement petition to allow you to begin receiving wage loss benefits again. The insurance company will not advise you of this. They may even tell you that your claim is closed, when in fact, it is not.
- Lump Sum Settlement – You may receive an offer from the insurance carrier to settle your case for a lump sum of money. Get the legal opinion of an experienced workers’ compensation attorney before accepting such an offer. Many insurance companies will attempt to offer only a fraction of the compensation deserved.
Who does Pond Lehocky represent?
Here is a partial list of the occupations and professions we proudly represent:
- Airline Industry Workers (Baggage Handlers, Tarmac Crew Members, In-flight Attendants, Etc.)
- Cement Masons
- City & State Employees
- Cleaning/Maintenance Professionals
- Construction Workers
- Dock and Cargo Workers
- Factory Workers & Machine Operators
- Food Service Workers
- Gas and Utility Workers
- Healthcare Workers (Nurses, Aides, Technicians, etc.)
- Industrial Technicians / Assemblers
- Installers (Cable, Heating & Air Conditioning, Etc.)
- Iron Workers
- Lab Technicians
- Laid Off Employees
- Marcellus Shale Drillers
- Meat/Food Packing Industry
- Metal Workers
- Nurses (registered nurses (RNs), certified nursing assistants (CNAs), healthcare aides)
- Office Workers
- Oil & Gas Drillers
- Police Officers
- Professional Athletes
- Refinery Workers
- Sanitation Workers
- Security Personnel
- Service Industry Workers
- Sprinkler Fitters
- Truck Drivers
- Union Employees
- Warehouse/Distribution Workers
Are workers’ compensation benefits taxable?
Workers’ compensation benefits in Pennsylvania are not taxable income. For federal income tax purposes, benefits awarded under a workers’ compensation act or statute due to work-related sickness or injury are fully exempt from tax.
What is an Impairment Rating Evaluation (IRE)?
If you are receiving Pennsylvania workers’ compensation benefits, your employer or its insurance company may require you to attend a medical examination with a doctor of its choosing. This exam is similar to an Independent Medical Examination, but its purpose is to try and limit your workers’ compensation benefits.
What should a worker do after getting injured on the job?
It is extremely important that you report your injury to your supervisor or employer IMMEDIATELY after your injury, even if the injury doesn’t cause you to miss work or seem that bad. When reporting, you must include the date, time and circumstances of your injury.
Will a pre-existing condition prevent me from getting workers’ compensation benefits in Pennsylvania?
A pre-existing condition will not prevent you from getting workers’ compensation benefits in Pennsylvania. Under the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act, even if you had a pre-existing problem, such as arthritis, you may receive benefits if you can show that an aggravation, re-activation or acceleration of the condition resulted from your job duties or the work incident. As soon as you receive a written diagnosis from your doctor, report your work injury.
The Workers’ Compensation Act applies to ALL injuries or occupational diseases occurring during the course and scope of employment and which are related to that employment. The Act applies to all injuries in Pennsylvania and can apply to injuries occurring outside of the state under certain circumstances (such as travel).
Is it possible for you to receive a lump-sum settlement if you are found to be permanently and totally disabled?
Most minor to moderate injury cases are settled with a lump-sum payment—a type of settlement that offers one large amount to the injured worker rather than weekly payments for lost wages. You can also negotiate a lump-sum settlement rather than continuing to receive weekly permanent disability payments.
Can you choose your own doctor/hospital?
This depends. If your employer posts the names of at least six doctors in your workplace and requires you to sign a panel acknowledgement form stating that you will treat with these doctors, you must do so for 90 days. However, many employers fail to meet the requirements for the posting and the acknowledgment, and even if the insurance company will not pay for doctors who are not on the panel list, you still have options. Many doctors are willing to treat injured workers even if they may not get paid until afterward.
How do you know if you need a Pennsylvania workers’ compensation attorney?
The litigation process for serious work-related injuries or illnesses generally requires legal representation. If you are injured or have contracted a work-related illness and believe you have been treated unfairly, contacting a Pennsylvania workers’ compensation attorney is in your best interest. Even if you think you’re able to handle a situation on your own, a lawyer is there to help you 100 percent throughout your case and receives no payment until your case is won.
Can social media hurt my workers’ compensation claim?
Clients must be mindful of what they post on their social media accounts. The information posted on social media sites is not always private or privileged. Pictures and comments can be taken out of context and turn a perfectly fine situation on its head.
Can my employer try to terminate my workers’ compensation benefits in Pennsylvania?
Unfortunately, yes. Under the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act, your employer may file a petition to terminate your workers’ compensation benefits. In order to succeed, your employer must show that you are no longer disabled or that any remaining disability is unrelated to the work injury.
Can you be fired for applying for workers’ compensation in Pennsylvania?
No, you cannot be fired. It is against the law for employers to fire workers simply because they have filed a Pennsylvania workers’ compensation claim. It is rare for an employer to make the mistake of telling an employee that they are being fired due to a workers’ compensation claim. Most employers are aware that this would likely lead to an employment discrimination lawsuit.
What injuries, diseases and illnesses are covered by workers’ compensation in Pennsylvania?
Any employee injured at work in the state of Pennsylvania is covered under the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act. It doesn’t matter if your job is part-time or seasonal in nature. The Workers’ Compensation Act applies to ALL injuries or occupational diseases that occur during the course and scope of employment that are related to that employment.
Do I need to attend a vocational exam?
An employer can hire a vocational counselor to show you are capable of performing some type of work even though you are injured. Your employer can use the opinions of the vocational counselor to suspend or reduce your workers’ compensation benefits.
How do you pay for a Pennsylvania workers’ compensation attorney to represent you?
Workers’ compensation cases, like most personal injury cases, are generally handled on a contingency fee basis. This means many attorneys handle cases for a percentage of the lump sum offered to settle the case. They don’t get paid unless and until you win your case.
What is the statute of limitations for filing a Pennsylvania workers’ compensation claim?
The statute of limitations refers to the length of time you have to file a workers’ compensation claim. In Pennsylvania, the statute of limitations for workers’ compensation claims is three years from the date of injury.
When should I hire a workers’ comp lawyer?
A workers’ compensation lawyer can help you through every step of the process. Ideally, you should contact a workers’ compensation attorney as soon as an injury occurs to prevent any ramifications. By law, you have 120 days to report an injury to your employer.
Can I work while on workers’ compensation?
The short answer is no. Workers receive workers’ compensation benefits because they are injured and unable to perform their usual job duties. If you are physically capable of working a second job, then it may be determined that you are able to return to your current job or capable of finding employment somewhere else.
Can you receive social security disability and workers’ compensation benefits at the same time?
It is possible to receive Social Security disability and workers’ compensation benefits at the same time. However, workers’ compensation and other public disability benefits may reduce Social Security disability benefits.
When someone is eligible for both workers’ compensation and Social Security disability benefits, the state may modify or “offset” the Social Security benefit. It can be beneficial to contact an attorney to see how workers’ compensation or other benefits could affect your Social Security disability payments. Importantly, reporting receipt of workers’ compensation is one of your responsibilities when receiving disability.
In addition, as Social Security disability payments are frequently insufficient to cover all of a person’s living expenses, it’s important to collect all the other benefits to which you may be entitled, and, if you are able, even try to supplement your income with part-time employment (but take care not to earn more than what would be considered substantial gainful activity by the Social Security Administration). Again, an attorney can be extremely helpful in advising the best course of action for you throughout your unique claim.
Do I have to receive treatment with my employer's panel physician for 90 days if injured on the job?
If your employer requires you to treat with their panel physician for 90 days, 3 requirements MUST be met:
- You (the injured worker) must sign an acknowledgement, on your date of hire, that you have received a written list of panel physicians.
- A list of panel physicians must be displayed in a prominent and readily accessible area of your workplace.
- You must sign another acknowledgement regarding panel physicians on the day you report your work injury.