Pennsylvania Work Injury Lawyers / Workers’ Comp Attorney
Pennsylvania’s workers’ compensation law is a comprehensive legal instrument that provides compensation and coverage to all the workers in PA who get injured on the job. Yet, greed-driven employers and insurance providers are a reality that often seek to diminish these compensations and refuse to provide adequate coverage.
Our boutique law firm, Cardamone Law, dedicates 100% of its resources to fighting such cases. Michael Cardamone and Paul Silver are two most brilliant work comp attorneys in PA. Equally skilled at both negotiations and trials, they represent the best part of working with Cardamone Law. Using our decades of experience, our updated knowledge, and our fighting spirit, we create strategies that result in success.
When most of us think about “work injuries”, we think about accidents that happen while at the workplace. However, in 1972, the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act eliminated the requirement of an accident and instead substituted the term injury.
The Broad Definition of “Injury”
The term “injury” has been broadly interpreted to include any injury to an employee, regardless of his previous physical condition, arising in the course of his employment and related thereto, and includes aggravation, reactivation, acceleration, or death resulting from the injury.
An injury does not even need to be pinpointed to a specific event as long as the injury arises in the course of employment and is related to the employment. Cumulative or repetitive injuries that occur over a period of time are compensable under the Act.
Injuries in The Course of Employment
An injury need not occur at the employee’s worksite. Injuries that occur while working from an employer-approved home office can be compensable. Even momentary departures from work, such as using bathroom facilities, do not remove an employee from the course of employment. Employer-run gyms on premises that employees were encouraged to use were held to be in the course of employment. Injuries suffered while engaged in a softball game on a company-sponsored team have also been held to be compensable. Similarly, injuries while attending company-sponsored picnics have been found to be compensable. An employer’s “premises” has even been broadly construed to include parking lots and building lobbies.
Good Samaritans are also covered under the Act. If an employee is injured while going to the aid of a person at the scene of an emergency has not abandoned the course of employment and is entitled to compensation.
What is a “Certified Specialist” in Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Law?
This is a special certification examination that determines which lawyers are the most expert in the field of Workers’ Compensation, PA. Its first examination was held in 2012, and Attorney Cardamone was among the small percentage of lawyers who took and passed the exam. He was again recertified in 2018.
If you are a work injury lawyer, having this certified distinction is critical as it shows the public which attorneys are highly experienced and competent with a Pennsylvania Work Compensation case.
The certification board allows the successful attorneys to use the following language in their marketing so as to highlight their credentials and advertise their expertise.
Prerequisites to Become a Certified Specialist in the Area of Workers’ Compensation Law:
To earn this coveted status, an attorney must establish that they have:
- Been admitted to practice in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania;
- Been actively engaged in the practice of law for a minimum of five years;
- Devoted a minimum of 50% of his practice to the specialty field of workers’ compensation;
- Directly participated over the past five (5) years in a minimum of seven (7) of the following categories of workers’ compensation litigation:
- claim petitions;
- fatal claim petitions;
- specific loss claims;
- utilization review;
- Occupational Disease claims under Section 108 of the Workers’ Compensation Act;
- Termination Petitions;
- Suspension Petitions;
- Modification Petitions;
- Compromise and Release proceedings;
- Appeals before the Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board;
- Appeals before the Commonwealth Court; and
- Appeals before the Supreme Court.
- directly participated in both direct and cross-examination of at least twenty-five (25) medical, vocational, or other expert witness depositions;
- submitted three samples of any of the following documents authored by the attorney:
- Proposed Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law and Brief submitted to a Workers’ Compensation Judge;
- Briefs filed before the Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board;
- Petition for Supersedeas and/or Answer to Supersedeas before the Workers Compensation
- Appeal Board and/or Commonwealth Court; and
- Briefs filed with the Commonwealth Court.
- Showed proof of completing the designated number of Mandatory Continuing Legal Education (MOLE) hours in the field of workers’ compensation over the specified period;
- Passed a four-hour examination on topics related to workers’ compensation.
As you can see, the certified status doesn’t come easy. There’s a tall order to fulfill before you can add that illustrious distinction to your name. Many law firms on TV or other media may claim to be expert in worker’s compensation cases. Maybe they do practice that from time to time, but at Cardamone Law, it’s ALL WE DO.
Can I Be on Benefits Forever?
If a workers’ compensation claim is granted, can you continue to get benefits for the rest of your life? While this is theoretically possible, in reality, this very rarely happens since the workers’ compensation carrier has many weapons in its arsenal to terminate or reduce benefits.
An experienced workers’ compensation attorney has the knowledge and experience to evaluate the worth of a claim properly and to know whether to settle or continue to litigate a case.
The workers’ compensation carrier will often try to find reasons to deny a claim (if a claim is denied, a Claim Petition must be filed within three years of the date of injury, or the claim is forever barred) and an experienced workers’ compensation attorney can often intercede to get the carrier to commence payments.
A worker can receive “total disability benefits” when they are totally disabled, and theoretically, these benefits can continue for the rest of the worker’s life, but that’s extremely unlikely. Also, it may be in the best interests of the worker to settle the case for a lump sum since there are no cost-of-living adjustments made to the compensation rates.
What is the Injured Worker Entitled to if He/She Cannot Work?
An employee is entitled to be paid benefits at the total disability rate when the employee is either totally impaired from performing any and all occupations or is unable to perform the job held at the time of injury. When an employee proves an inability to do the same work as at the time of injury, the employer has the burden to prove that other work is reasonably available that the employee is physically and vocationally capable of performing.
An employee who voluntarily retires from the workforce, rather than being forced into a compulsory retirement because of a disabling injury, is not entitled to benefits.
Can I Return to Work After a Work Injury and What Happens When I Do?
If an employee goes back to work, either for the time-of-injury employer or another employer, the employee will no longer be entitled to receive total disability benefits.
If the employee returns to work making as much money as before the injury, indemnity benefits are suspended.
If an employee returns to work making less money than before the injury, benefits will change from total disability to partial disability, which is usually two-thirds of the difference between the pre-injury average weekly wage and the new weekly wage of the employee. These partial disability benefits are allowed for a maximum of 500 weeks.
Can the Insurer Try to Terminate or Suspend My Benefits if I Don’t Get Medical Treatment?
The insurance company may try to terminate workers’ compensation benefits if the employee fails to comply with medical treatment ordered by a doctor. If it is proven that reasonable medical treatment ordered by a doctor is essential for the patient’s recovery and if the patient refuses to undergo the treatment, a Workers’ Compensation Judge may terminate or suspend benefits.
A Judge will often weigh the benefits versus the risks of the proposed treatment.
Will I have to attend an Independent Medical Exam?
Another way that insurance companies use to avoid paying benefits is when the employee ignores a request to have a medical examination. Under Pennsylvania law, the injured worker is required to submit to an independent medical examination by a physician chosen by the employer every six months.
The insurance company can petition to suspend benefits if the employee refuses to comply with the request.
The workers’ compensation carrier can also suspend benefits if an employee is sent to jail after a conviction. This is based on the theory that a person who commits a crime has voluntarily removed himself from the workforce. However, pre-trial incarceration does not preclude the receipt of benefits.
Do I Have to Fill Out These Forms (LIBC) that Workmen’s Comp Sent Me?
Another standard method that insurance companies use to suspend benefits is when an employee does not complete and return employee verification forms to the carrier within 30 days.
These forms require that the employee report any jobs obtained after the injury. Both sides of the forms must be completed and signed and returned to the insurance company within 30 days or the company can stop workers’ compensation benefits until the forms are completed and returned.
Converting Benefits From Total To Partial As A Result of An Impairment Rating Evaluation
After a worker has received total disability benefits for 104 weeks, the workers’ compensation insurance company is allowed to require the employee to submit an Impairment Rating Evaluation. If the evaluating physician determines that the degree of total body impairment is less than 35%, the insurance company can convert benefits to partial disability even though the employee has not returned to work, and indemnity benefits can only continue for an additional 500 weeks.
Compromise & Release Agreements
Never agree to accept a lump-sum settlement from the insurance company before talking to an experienced workers’ compensation attorney. This is another common method that insurance companies use to pay an employee less than what they should be entitled.
Entering into a “Compromise and Release Agreement” will usually preclude an employee from ever re-opening the claim, even if the employee’s condition worsens or even if the employee discovers that the injury was much more serious.
Death Benefits Under Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation
Finally, in case of a fatal injury or illness, does that mean that no further benefits are payable?
Of course, the death of an injured worker will preclude the employee’s receipt of future indemnity or medical benefits, however, an attorney should be consulted to determine whether the employee’s family is entitled to survivor benefits.
Do I Need a Pennsylvania Workers’ Comp Lawyer?
Benefits can also be terminated, suspended, or modified by a Workers’ Compensation Judge if it is proven that the employee has fully recovered or is capable of gainful employment. An experienced workers’ compensation attorney should be retained to defend against such petitions since this often involves complex issues and litigation.
Employees should consult an experienced workers’ compensation attorney before they agree to sign a “Final Receipt” or “Supplemental Agreement” by the insurance company. When an employee signs a Final Receipt, it means that he or she agreed to stop receiving benefits.
Similarly, signing a ‘Supplemental Agreement” may give up the employee’s rights to continued benefits even if the employee should have been entitled to continue to receive benefits had the Agreement not been signed.
An employer seeking to terminate workers’ compensation benefits bears the burden of proving that the employee’s disability has ceased, or that any current disability arises from a cause unrelated to the employee’s work injury. An injured employee is no longer entitled to compensation benefits when disability has ceased.
Understand Your Rights as an Injured Employee in Pennsylvania
Therefore, if an employee feels that his injury may have some relationship to his or her job, they should promptly consult a Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Attorney for guidance in filing a claim.
As seasoned work injury attorneys, we are equipped with the expertise and knowledge to analyze your case and build a strategy that will win you the best compensation. As a boutique law firm, we provide our clients with a higher level of dedicated services that most large law firms cannot match. We are also financially leveraged to go against the big guys and come out winning.
If you or a loved one has been injured at work, feel free to reach out to us at (215) 206-9068 and benefit from a free, no-obligation consultation with our award-winning work injury attorney, Michael Cardamone.