Pennsylvania workers’ compensation is handled by the Pennsylvania Bureau of Workers Compensation. This organization handles all work injury cases in Pennsylvania, from sudden injuries (back sprains) to repetitive strains (carpal tunnel), and even illness or disease that is caused or aggravated by your job, such as exposure to asbestos.
Pennsylvania is a “no fault” state, which means that you are entitled to benefits regardless of whether it was your employer’s fault that you got hurt. Even if your injury was caused by your mistake, you are entitled to benefits. You do have to prove that your work caused your injury. There are a few exceptions, such as if you were intoxicated at the time of your injury. In most cases, you cannot sue your employer for negligence.
There are a couple of different types of benefits you may receive in Pennsylvania:
- Medical benefits. In most cases, 100% of all reasonable and necessary medical bills related to the work injury will be paid.
- Total Disability. If you are unable to work at all, you can receive 2/3 of your average weekly wage for up to 500 weeks.
- Partial Disability. These benefits are available to compensate you for a difference in wages if you can return to work but you can only perform a job that pays less. You can receive 2/3 of the difference in wages. These benefits also are available for up to 500 weeks.
In Pennsylvania, your employer can choose your initial doctor, but you are usually free to switch to your own doctor after 90 days. Your employer is required to post a list of approved doctors in the workplace, and is not permitted to ask you to see a particular doctor on the list.
When looking for a work injury lawyer in Pennsylvania, we recommend that you choose carefully. Find an attorney who has a track record of success in workers’ compensation cases and who focuses his or her practice on this type of case. Work injury attorneys work on a contingency basis – meaning they only get paid if you are successful. If you are denied benefits, you do not pay any fee.
In Pennsylvania, attorney fees in work injury cases are limited to 20%. If you settle for $30,000, your lawyer’s fee would be $6,000. An attorney cannot receive a fee larger than 20%, which means that you can go with the best attorney you can find. Note that there is no limit to what you can recover in a Pennsylvania work injury case, unless you have a “specific loss” claim (loss of all or part of the use of a limb, or your sight or hearing, for example).
It is important to be aware of some time limits so that you aren’t denied benefits on a technicality. Pennsylvania law requires you to give your employer notice of your injury within 120 days of the injury. An employer has 21 days from the time it’s reported to investigate an injury.
If your claim is denied, or you don’t think you are receiving the proper benefits, you can file a claim with the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation. This formal document notifies your employer that you are taking action. You have three years from the date of the injury to file a claim. This deadline is important – if you don’t file in time your case will be forever barred.
A workers’ compensation claim in Pennsylvania is not a lawsuit against your employer. It is a claim against your employer’s insurance carrier, similar to filing for health insurance benefits. Your law firm will communicate with the insurance company, not your employer. Unlike health insurance disputes, quick action can lead to a better outcome in work injury cases.
Although you’re not required to have a lawyer to receive benefits or file a claim, we believe it can make a difference. A good work injury attorney can help you navigate the system and be there in case something goes wrong, such as unpaid benefits or denied medical treatment. A good work injury attorney will give you peace of mind and look out for your best interests.
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