The Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act and its Regulations discourage repeated continuances or postponements of hearings. Experienced workers’ compensation attorneys should be retained by clients to file claim petitions for workers’ compensation benefits in Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation laws and procedural requirements can be complex and demanding and require both experience and skill. An experienced workers’ compensation attorney will be familiar with the benefits that clients can obtain and when to pursue settlement of cases.
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FACTORS OF CONSIDERATION FOR CONTINUANCES
The Special rules of Administrative Practice and Procedure state: Parties shall make every effort to avoid continuances or postponements by the prompt scheduling and submission of expert and medical testimony and by the prompt presentation of lay testimony. 34 Pa. Code 131.13(b). While this provision sets forth the principle that depositions of medical experts should be scheduled promptly to avoid delay and postponements, 34 Pa. Code 131.13(j) lists several factors that a Workers’ Compensation Judge may consider in adjudicating a request for a continuance or postponement, which include the following:
- The positions of the various parties relating to the request for a continuance or postponement.
- The number of prior continuances or postponements or denials of continuances or postponements and at whose request they were granted or denied.
- Whether the requested continuance or postponement will work an undue hardship on a party.
- The unavailability of the parties, witnesses or counsel.
- The illness or death of the parties or counsel or members of their immediate families.
- The desirability of unrepresented parties obtaining counsel.
- The necessity to replace the services of an expert witness who becomes unavailable.
- Another reason deemed by the judge to be for good cause shown and consistent with this chapter and the purposes of the act and the Disease Law.
HOW DO CONTINUANCES AFFECT DUE PROCESS?
Due process requires that a party be provided an opportunity to present its case. See City of Philadelphia v. WCAB (Rooney), 730 A.2d 1051, 1052 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1999). However, a Judge’s denial of a request for a continuance is not necessarily tantamount to a deprivation of one’s due process rights. Rather, a Judge’s decision to grant or deny a request for a continuance is discretionary and subject to review only upon a clear showing of an abuse of discretion. Roundtree v. WCAB (City of Philadelphia), 116 A.3d 140 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2015).
A continuance or postponement may be granted for good cause shown at the discretion of the judge. Workers’ compensation attorneys are familiar with the Judges and whether they are likely to grant or deny a request for continuance under various circumstance, and the request should always be done by an experienced workers’ compensation attorney, and not by the client.
HOW TO FILE A REQUEST FOR CONTINUANCE IN PENNSYLVANIA WORKERS’ COMPENSATION CASES
Requests for continuances should be done on-line by the attorney within the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation portal in WCAIS. Requests for a continuance must be made in writing or at a hearing. They should generally be made not later than 10 calendar days prior to the hearing date, except for good cause shown. Prior to the request for a continuance, the party requesting the continuance must ascertain the position of all counsel of record and unrepresented parties in the case and shall advise the judge of same at the time of the request. The request should contain a detailed statement of the reasons why the continuance or postponement is requested and the date on which the need to request a continuance arose. The request must be served upon all counsel of record, unrepresented parties, the requesting attorney’s client, and the judge.
In ruling on requests for a continuance, the judge may consider the position of the various parties, the number of prior continuances and at whose request they were granted or denied, whether the continuance would work an undue hardship on a party, and the unavailability of the parties, witnesses, or counsel. The judge may also consider the illness or death of the parties or counsel or members of their immediate families, the desirability of unrepresented parties obtaining counsel, the necessity to replace the services of an expert witness who becomes unavailable, and other matters of good cause. A scheduling conflict in another tribunal may be considered but may or may not be determinative. If a continuance is granted, the judge may impose conditions and direct action by the parties which the judge deems reasonable under the circumstances.
In summary, continuances of hearings are granted within the discretion of the judge for good cause shown. Employers who unreasonably delay hearings may be subject to penalties. Continuances are discouraged and a Workers’ Compensation Judge has discretion to control the docket by ordering parties to comply with litigation in a timely manner.