A Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Judge has the discretion to award penalties for violations of the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act. The WCJ can award up to 50% of the amount at issue.
And, they are not required to order any penalty to be paid.
Penalty Petitions: easy to file, tough to Implement
Penalty Petitions, admittedly, are easy to file, and not always easy to execute — especially if it stems from unpaid medical bills.
Demonstrating when a bill was sent and with what forms and/or records, and to whom isn’t as easy as it may appear at the outset.
But for other types of penalties, things are not as burdensome. For example, you enter into a Compromise & Release Agreement, the WCJ issues an Order on January 2, 2023, approving it, and the checks aren’t mailed until February 9, 2023 — clearly more than 30 days from the WCJ’s Order.
Pro tip: don’t believe it when counsel says the checks were “issued” on X date- issued isn’t relevant- when they were mailed is- see the envelope date containing the checks.
Image Source: unsplash/Romain Dancre
However, even in these circumstances, hardly any penalties get awarded. It’s time for the pendulum to swing, back to a reality where rules mean something.
It’s An Imbalanced System That Hurts The Injured Workers More
Why can’t we have an automatic 5% baseline penalty for a check being mailed one day late? There is a sense of malaise when it comes to penalties — and as a Claimant’s lawyer, we are often pressured to withdraw the Penalty Petition once the payments are made.
Why? No penalty?
The often unspoken quid pro quo is that it will be made up to us when we need a favor, perhaps, or with a lump sum settlement offer.
Is that realistic? Why is everyone allergic to an automatic penalty, something objective, at least with respect to the late mailing of claimants’ checks and attorneys’ fees if applicable (which are likely the majority of penalty petitions)?
Injured workers have bills like everyone else and they’re under a lot of stress from the nature of our adversarial system. There is no logical reason for them to suffer and then have to fight for a few extra dollars.
If they failed to sign the LIBC forms and return them within 30 days, are they cut a break? Usually, the answer is no.
If they make some money on the side, do the insurers say “No problem, we’re not going to deduct it from your pay?” ,
What if a claimant fails to file a Challenge within 20 days, is that going to be forgiven? Hardly.
But we should just withdraw our Petition for Penalties because the checks were only a few days late?
Let’s put some teeth into Penalties when the facts are clear. When the facts aren’t clear, then the discretion of the WCJs can govern the process.
Call Cardamone Law when you need a fighting chance for your Penalty Petitions
Pennsylvania workers’ compensation lawyers are available 24/7 at (215) 206-9068.