Philadelphia Workers’ Compensation Attorneys: Answers To Frequently Asked Questions
Getting injured on the job can happen to anyone. Whether you get elbowed in the face when working on the floor of the Philadelphia Stock Exchange, burn your hand working the oven at Capital Grille in Center City, or simply develop arthritis from years of showing tourists to the Liberty Bell, each can have devastating effects that may leave you with permanent damage to your body.
But what you may see as a reason to throw up your hands in despair, we see as a chance to fight to get you the workers’ compensation benefits you deserve in Philadelphia, PA and Bucks, Chester, Delaware and Montgomery Counties. Contact the Zavodnick, Zavodnick & Lasky, LLC, Philadelphia workers’ compensation attorneys today so that we can begin working on your case immediately.
- What is workers’ compensation?
- What is covered Under workers’ compensation?
- Do I have to prove that my employer was at fault in causing my injury?
- Can i sue my employer?
- Crossing State Lines
- What am I required to do if I am injured at work?
- Can I be fired if I file for workers’ compensation?
- How am I going to pay my bills if I am unable to work?
- Does it matter if I was working for two employers at the time of my injury?
- Who is going to pay for my medical bills?
- Do I have to go to the company doctor?
- My employer’s doctor recommends surgery. What are my options?
- Do I need a workers’ compensation Attorney?
- How long does my employer have to make a decision on my claim?
- My claim was denied. What should I do?
- Can my employer accept responsibility for my medical treatment without paying me wage loss benefits?
- Are injuries sustained off-premises or on breaks covered under workers’ compensation?
- If my claim is accepted how long will I keep receiving workers’ compensation checks?
- If I return to work following a work injury but make less money than I did before my injury am I entitled to compensation?
- Can my employer require me to see a doctor hired by them for an Independent Medical Examination?
- Will my employer hire someone to watch me and videotape me after I report a work injury?
- Am I guaranteed a settlement?
- My employer did not have workers’ compensation insurance, can I still receive benefits?
- Do I need to notify the insurance company if I am receiving workers’ compensation benefits and I return to work for a different employer?
- Can I apply for unemployment compensation benefits if I am out of work following an injury?
- Can I apply for social security disability benefits if I am receiving workers’ compensation benefits?
- Can I receive compensation if I lose a finger as a result of a work-related incident?
- Can I receive compensation if I have scars on my face or neck following a work-related injury or surgery for a work-related injury?
- I had a prior injury to the same part of my body, can I still receive workers’ compensation?
- Do I have to pay taxes on workers’ compensation benefits I receive?
- Why Does My Employer Have A Right To Get Money Back If I File A Lawsuit Against A Third Party?
What is workers’ compensation?
Workers’ compensation refers to the system of medical and wage loss benefits established by law in Pennsylvania that covers all work-related injuries sustained by employees.
Workers’ Compensation (also known as workman’s comp or work comp) is a no fault system designed to compensate employees who are injured on the job. Since it is a no fault system it does not matter whether you were injured as a result of your employer’s negligence or whether you simply injured yourself lifting a heavy object – you are entitled to be compensated either way.
However, the types of workers’ compensation benefits you are entitled to is different than in a traditional personal injury matter, such as a car accident. The biggest difference between work injury benefits and damages in a personal injury case is that there is no compensation for pain and suffering in workers’ compensation. The only benefits that are available are for wage loss, medical expenses, death and scarring to the head, face or neck.
What is covered Under workers’ compensation?
Pursuant to Section 531 of the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act, employers are responsible to pay for reasonable medical expenses, including:
- Doctor’s visits;
- Diagnostic tests;
- Medical supplies/equipment;
- Second opinions.
The workers’ compensation laws cover all injuries sustained by employees. The injury or condition can be the result of a single traumatic event such as being hit by a forklift at work or an employee twisting a knee while working, or it can be the result of a continuous, repetitive type activity at work that leads to a medical condition, such as lifting heavy boxes day in and day out that results in a back injury, or engaging in repetitive type activities that lead to the development of carpal tunnel syndrome. Additionally, you may be entitled to wage loss and medical benefits for certain occupational diseases.
Do I have to prove that my employer was at fault in causing my injury?
No, you do not have to prove that your employer was at fault. It is generally irrelevant who was at fault in causing the injury so long as you were injured at work.
Can I sue my employer?
No, you may not sue your employer if you have been injured at work. Under the law, your employer has immunity from any other lawsuits that you might wish to file against it. There are a limited number of exceptions to this rule.
Additionally, in certain circumstances you may be able to sue other companies or individuals who may have caused your work injury. Call one the Philadelphia, PA workers’ compensation and personal injury attorneys at Zavodnick, Zavodnick & Lasky, LLC today for a free review of your workers’ compensation case at (215) 875-7030.
Crossing State Lines
Like many people who live in Philadelphia, PA or border counties such as Bucks, Chester County, Delaware and Montgomery County, you may travel across state lines several times over the course of a workday. But even if you happened to be in an accident east of the Delaware River, you may still have the right to pursue workers’ compensation benefits in Philadelphia, PA. We have the attorneys who can help guide you through the often confusing claims process.
You can always receive workers’ compensation benefits in Pennsylvania if you were injured in Pennsylvania. This is so even if your employer initially begins paying you under the laws of another state. The benefits available in each state may be dramatically different, therefore, consultation with an experienced Philadelphia workers’ compensation attorney is highly recommended.
See our blog post for more information about when you can and cannot pursue a workers’ compensation claim in Pennsylvania when injured outside of the state.
What am I required to do if I am injured at work?
The law requires that you tell your employer immediately if you are injured at work in Pennsylvania. Oftentimes employees do not tell their employers right away because they hope that the pain will go away or they assume that it is just a pulled muscle that will heal quickly. This is perhaps the biggest mistake that you can make because your employer will use your failure to immediately report the injury against you once you do report it!
While the law requires you to tell your employer that you were injured at work within a maximum of 120 days from the date of your injury, the best thing you can do is report the injury immediately. If it turns out that the injury is not severe and you will not require any medical treatment or miss any time from work, nothing negative that should come from you reporting the injury. Your employer is not allowed to retaliate or punish you for exercising your rights under the law.
Can I be fired if I file for workers’ compensation?
No. The law in Pennsylvania is quite clear that an employer is prohibited from retaliating against an employee who reports a workers’ compensation claim. If your employer does fire you or in any way retaliates against you for reporting a workers’ compensation claim you would have a separate lawsuit against your employer and could recover lost wages and potentially punitive damages as well. Our skilled Philadelphia, PA personal injury lawyers have successfully handled numerous claims in state court alleging wrongful termination in retaliation for filing a workers’ compensation claim.
How am I going to pay my bills if I am unable to work?
If you are hurt at work and are unable to work because of a work injury then you may be entitled to wage loss benefits. You must miss at least 7 days of work in order to be entitled to wage loss benefits. In other words, if you miss less than 7 days your employer will not have to pay you for your wage loss.
If you are out of work between 8 and 14 days, your employer must begin paying you as of the 8th day. However, if you are out of work for more than 14 days, you are entitled to wage loss benefits going back to the first day you missed from work.
How much you will be paid in workers’ compensation benefits depends on your average weekly wage before your injury. Workers’ compensation wage loss benefits are based on gross wages. This can be more confusing than it seems. Call one of the Philadelphia workers’ compensation attorneys at Zavodnick, Zavodnick & Lasky, LLC to answer your wage loss benefits questions, (215) 875-7030.
Does it matter if I was working for two employers at the time of my injury?
Yes. Make sure you tell your workers’ compensation attorney immediately if you were working for more than one employer at the time of your injury. This is what is referred to as concurrent employment under the law and it will result in a higher average weekly wage, which will mean more money to you in the event you have to miss time from both jobs
Who is going to pay for my medical bills?
If you are injured at work your employer and its workers’ compensation insurer are required to pay for all of your reasonable and necessary medical treatment that is related to your work injury. There are no co-pays or deductibles under the workers’ compensation law.
Your employer and the workers’ compensation insurance company must pay 100% of your medical bills. Unfortunately, many times the company chooses not to fulfill its obligations under the law and ignores or denies bills that should be paid. In those circumstances, an experienced workers’ compensation attorney can file the necessary petitions with the state to ensure that the bills get paid and the injured worker is able to continue their treatment without interruption.
Failure to have a workers’ compensation lawyer take action on your behalf when bills are denied may result in your physician or doctor informing you that he/she can no longer treat you because of the insurance company’s failure to pay the bills.
Do I have to go to the company doctor?
Employers and their workers’ compensation insurance companies often inform their injured workers that they must treat with the company doctor. This is not true unless the employer had you sign a form acknowledging that you were required to treat with one of their doctors at the time you were hired, and again after your injury.
The majority of employers in Pennsylvania do not do this, yet they continue to lie to their injured workers and tell the workers that they must see the company doctor or work health facility chosen by the employer.
The reason they do this is because the employers often have relationships with the doctors they attempt to send you to and those company doctors will be more concerned with keeping the employer happy and returning you to work right away with minimal treatment than they will be with making sure you get the proper treatment and helping you get better.
Under no circumstances does the employer have the right to choose the actual doctor you must see! Even if the employer does have you sign the required forms both before and after your injury, that only gives the employer the right to give you a list of designated doctors to choose from – they do not get to pick the actual doctor for you!
This list of designated doctors must also be posted somewhere in the workplace for all employees to see.
You should speak with an experienced workers’ compensation attorney immediately if you have been hurt at work before listening to your employer’s lies and going to one of the company doctors. Call one of the Philadelphia workers’ compensation attorneys at Zavodnick, Zavodnick & Lasky, LLC today for your free legal consultation, (215) 875-7030.
My employer’s doctor recommends surgery. What are my options?
Invasive surgery is never something to take lightly. Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation laws protect you from having to take this course of action against your will if it is not necessary. At this point, you are entitled to a second opinion from a health care provider of your choice at the employer’s expense. Should the opinions differ, you can choose which medical counsel to follow.
Do I need a workers’ compensation Attorney?
Unfortunately most employers and their workers’ compensation insurance companies have only one thing on their mind when you are hurt at work – how much is it going to cost them. Oftentimes the insurance adjuster will appear to be your best friend following your work accident, giving you advice, and even helping you to find a doctor (whom they have worked with a number of times).
Then, when they feel like you should be getting back to work they send you for an IME (Independent Medical Examination) with a doctor that finds there is nothing wrong with you. The next thing you know the insurance company hires their own attorney and has them file a Petition to Terminate your workers’ compensation benefits. Unfortunately, it is only then that a lot of injured workers finally realize that the insurance company is not on their side.
Injured workers often hesitate or delay in hiring a lawyer on their behalf because they are worried that the lawyer will receive a fee that will come out of their workers’ compensation benefits. However, at Zavodnick, Zavodnick & Lasky, LLC, we do not seek a fee unless and until we have to go to court on your behalf, or we settle your case.
In other words – there is no downside to hiring our firm right away and allowing us to advise you along the way. If the insurance company does what it is supposed to do and begins paying you workers’ compensation benefits, we do not receive any fee but still represent you and are there to answer your questions, help with your medical treatment and address any issues that present themselves during the course of your claim and treatment.
In this way, we are able to monitor your case and ensure that everything goes smoothly so that, if and when the insurance company gets tired of paying you benefits, we are up to speed and ready to defend and protect your rights in court. Don’t wait to hire a lawyer until the insurance company has already filed a petition to terminate your benefits. Consult with a top Philadelphia workers’ compensation attorney at Zavodnick, Zavodnick & Lasky, LLC immediately following your work injury to find out what your rights are and have somebody acting on your behalf and in your corner.
How long does my employer have to make a decision on my claim?
The employer and its insurance company have 21 days from the date that you notify them of your injury to file a formal, state-issued document either accepting responsibility for your claim or denying responsibility for your claim. They are required to mail you a copy of the document that they file. If the employer fails to do this the employer can be subject to monetary penalties under the law.
The employer may issue a document called a Notice of Temporary Compensation Payable that temporarily accepts responsibility for your injury but gives the employer 90 days to make a final decision on whether to accept or deny your claim. If you have received a form from your employer that you do not understand call one of the Philadelphia workers’ compensation lawyers at Zavodnick, Zavodnick & Lasky, LLC and schedule a free consultation.
My claim was denied. What should I do?
If your employer has denied your comp claim, you must file a Claim Petition to have your case heard by a judge as soon as possible. An experienced legal team can help you prepare the documents and litigate the case. A team of attorneys will give you heavy bargaining power against the powerful insurance company and your employer.
Can my employer accept responsibility for my medical treatment without paying me wage loss benefits?
Yes, in fact this happens quite frequently, particularly in circumstances where someone is injured at work but does not miss any time initially. The employer may issue a state document called a “Medical-Only Notice of Compensation Payable” acknowledging its obligation to pay for your medical treatment.
Even if you don’t miss any time from work it is important that you make sure that the employer issues this document. If they do not do so they have no legal obligation to pay for your medical treatment associated with your work-related injury.
Are injuries sustained off-premises or on breaks covered under workers’ compensation?
Yes, under certain circumstances. There have been hundreds of cases decided by the courts involving off-premises injuries and injuries sustained while on breaks. The rules established by these cases are too detailed to fully describe here and whether an injured employee is entitled to workers’ compensation benefits is decided on a case by case basis.
If you have been injured off-premises while working for your employer or while on a break you should call one of the top Philadelphia, PA workers’ compensation attorneys at Zavodnick, Zavodnick & Lasky, LLC to find out what your rights are.
If my claim is accepted how long will I keep receiving workers’ compensation checks?
Once your claim is accepted, you will continue receiving workers’ compensation benefits until one of the following things occur:
- You agree to a settlement of your claim;
- You return to work on your own, earning the same or more money than you earned before your injury;
- A workers’ compensation judge determines, after a hearing and after receiving evidence from medical experts, that you have fully recovered from your work-related injuries;
- A workers’ compensation judge determines, after a hearing and after receiving evidence from medical experts, that, even though you have not returned to your previous employment you are physically capable of doing so and the job has been offered to you;
- A workers’ compensation judge determines, after a hearing and after receiving evidence from medical experts and vocational experts, that you are capable of performing other work that exists in your geographic area, that would pay you equal to or more than you received prior to your injury.
If I return to work following a work injury but make less money than I did before my injury am I entitled to compensation?
Yes, if you return to work following an injury making less than your average weekly wage, you are entitled to 2/3 of the difference between your average weekly wage and your current earnings.
This is often the case where an individual is injured and then returns to work light duty, where there is no overtime available so the employee earns less money. The insurance companies often do not pay injured workers the benefits they are entitled to upon their return to work following a work injury.
For this reason, if you have been hurt at work and think you may be taking home less money following your return to work, you should contact an experienced workers’ compensation attorney immediately.
If I have to file a claim petition because my claim is denied how long will it take before my claim is decided?
The hardest part of any workers’ compensation claim for an injured worker whose claim has been denied is the amount of time it often takes to receive a decision from a workers’ compensation judge.
This process can often take between 9-12 months from the time a claim is filed by your attorney until you receive a final decision. However, once your claim is granted you will be awarded all benefits that should have been paid during that time period as well as statutory interest of 10% on all past-due benefits.
Can my employer require me to see a doctor hired by them for an Independent Medical Examination?
Yes, as discussed above, your employer usually cannot make you receive treatment from a doctor that they choose. However, your employer can require you to attend an “Independent Medical Examination” with a physician whom they choose to examine you on their behalf once every six months.
This physician is paid by the employer to examine you and report back to the employer regarding your injuries and ability to work, so it is not really an “independent” examination, however, it is important that you attend this examination when it is scheduled because if you do not do so the employer can seek to have your benefits stopped until you attend the examination. See our article regarding Independent Medical Examinations for more detailed information on the process.
Will my employer hire someone to watch me and videotape me after I report a work injury?
Yes, employers frequently hire private investigators to conduct surveillance on injured workers, particularly those who are already receiving benefits. The employers hope to catch workers performing activities around the house that are inconsistent with the injuries being complained of by the injured workers, or driving to and from places when the employees are reporting that their injuries prevent them from driving.
Be aware of this possibility, and make sure that you do not engage in any activities that could be considered inconsistent with the complaints and injuries you have sustained.
Am I guaranteed a settlement?
No. Not every workers’ compensation case settles. Though many cases do settle, there are many cases that do not settle as well and by no means is a settlement guaranteed. Whether your case will ultimately result in a settlement depends on a variety of factors. Ask your Philadelphia workers’ compensation attorney at Zavodnick, Zavodnick & Lasky, LLC for more details.
My employer did not have workers’ compensation insurance, can I still receive benefits?
Yes, several years ago the Uninsured Employer’s Guaranty Fund was created by the state. This fund, commonly referred to as the Uninsured Fund, was established to provide benefits to injured workers whose employers failed to carry workers’ compensation insurance.
It is important that you call one of the skilled Philadelphia, PA workers’ compensation attorneys at Zavodnick, Zavodnick & Lasky, LLC right away if you have been injured at work and you believe that your employer does not have workers’ compensation insurance because there are specific deadlines for filing such claims.
Do I need to notify the insurance company if I am receiving workers’ compensation benefits and I return to work for a different employer?
Yes. If you return to work for a different employer and do not report it to the employer or insurance company that is paying you workers’ compensation benefits it is considered fraud and you could be fined or imprisoned.
Can I apply for unemployment compensation benefits if I am out of work following an injury?
Yes. You may apply for unemployment benefits as long as your doctor believes you are capable of returning to work in some capacity, even if it is not to your pre-injury employment.
However, if you receive unemployment benefits and then are awarded workers’ compensation benefits the workers’ compensation benefits will be reduced by the amount of unemployment benefits you received.
Can I apply for social security disability benefits if I am receiving workers’ compensation benefits?
Yes. You may apply for social security disability benefits if you are receiving or have applied for workers’ compensation benefits. If you are awarded social security disability benefits those benefits may be reduced by the amount you receive in workers’ compensation benefits.
There are also other issues that can arise so be certain to call a Philadelphia, PA social security benefits lawyer at Zavodnick, Zavodnick & Lasky, LLC before applying for social security disability benefits.
Can I receive compensation if I lose a finger as a result of a work-related incident?
Yes, there are certain types of benefits, called specific loss benefits that you may receive whether you miss any time from work or not as a result of your injury. The law provides a schedule for such benefits that sets forth the amount of weeks you may receive depending on the body part that was lost or amputated.
You may also receive a partial award if you lost a part of a finger, etc. Again, these benefits can be received regardless of whether you miss any time from work due to your work-related injury.
Can I receive compensation if I have scars on my face or neck following a work-related injury or surgery for a work-related injury?
Yes, the workers’ compensation law allows judges to award up to 275 weeks of benefits for scars or disfigurement resulting from a work-related injury. Oftentimes, an injured worker has surgery on his or her neck and has a scar. A claim can be made for such a scar. It is important to note that disfigurement awards can only be made for facial of neck scars/disfigurement.
I had a prior injury to the same part of my body, can I still receive workers’ compensation?
Yes, the law allows you to receive benefits even if you had a prior injury to the same part of your body and even if you received workers’ compensation benefits in the past for that injury. The law recognizes an employee’s right to receive benefits if they sustain an aggravation of a prior injury.
It is particularly important that you call a Philadelphia workers’ compensation attorney at Zavodnick, Zavodnick & Lasky, LLC right away if you believe you have aggravated a prior injury or condition so that we may guide you accordingly.
Do I have to pay taxes on workers’ compensation benefits I receive?
No, IRS Guidelines provide that you do not need to pay taxes on workers’ compensation benefits you receive. This is one of the reasons why the majority of injured workers in Pennsylvania may only receive up to 2/3 of their pre-injury average weekly wage from workers’ comp.
Why Does My Employer Have A Right To Get Money Back If I File A Lawsuit Against A Third Party?
Section 319 of the Workers’ Compensation Act provides that where a work injury is caused by the act or omissions of a third party the employer is subrogated to the right of the injured worker against the third party to the extent of the compensation payable under the workers’ compensation laws.
What this means is that if you are injured as a result of the negligence of a third party and receive workers’ compensation benefits as a result and then file a lawsuit against that third party, your employer and its insurance carrier will have a statutory right to be paid back for some or all of the money it has paid to you under the law, depending on the amount of your recovery in the third party case.
The most common example of this is when an employee is involved in a work-related car accident or motorcycle accident and file a lawsuit against the driver of the other vehicle in addition to receiving wage loss and medical benefits from his or her employer, however, numerous other factual scenarios can arise which give rise to an employer’s right to subrogation.
Additionally, if the amount recovered in the third party lawsuit is greater than the amount of money the workers’ compensation insurance company has paid on your claim the workers’ compensation insurance company will also be entitled to a credit against future wage loss benefits they owe you.
There’s No Time to Waste
If you have been injured in a workplace accident in this city, you can’t wait any longer to find good representation. The statute of limitations varies among states, and contacting one of our experienced Philadelphia personal injury and workers’ compensation lawyers immediately is your next step towards earning your worker’s compensation in Philadelphia, PA as well as exploring whether you may be able to assert a claim against any other entity who may have caused your injury.
We know how hard you have worked already. Contact us today at Zavodnick, Zavodnick & Lasky, LLC, and let us work for you to help secure the compensation that you need.