Lives change when injuries occur. The Philadelphia Workers’ Compensation lawyers at Galfand Berger LLP are dedicated to helping people whose world is changed by a workplace accident, injury, or exposure. We help injured workers throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey navigate the complexities of the Workers’ Compensation and Social Security Disability process.
So often, workplace injury victims have questions about their rights. That is why it is important to have experienced attorneys on your side. We are not afraid to take on employers and insurance companies who try to deny your benefits. Galfand Berger LLP has written the book on handling Workers’ Compensation cases in Pennsylvania. You can download a copy of Workers’ Rights to Workers’ Compensation here.
In the course of a workday, you may face the risk of injury or death. Many workers are unaware of the hazards to which they are exposed, and others, while understanding the risks, cannot choose a safe work environment. Your employer controls your workplace, and you may be exposed to significant safety and health hazards.
Because you cannot eliminate the safety or health hazards that cause injuries, you should do everything possible to make sure your employer bears the burden of the economic losses caused by work-related injuries.
One of the original principles of Workers’ Compensation was to provide injured workers and their families with sufficient resources to maintain an adequate standard of living, despite the disability or death of the primary breadwinner. Workers’ Compensation places the burden of a substantial portion of an injured worker’s economic loss on the employer. However, Workers’ Compensation only pays a portion of your loss; it does not pay for the full loss of wages, pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life’s pleasures, or the loss of dignity and confidence seriously injured workers suffer. Yet, because Workers’ Compensation is the only right the injured worker has against the employer, it is important that you know your rights and make sure your employer meets its obligation under the law.
No one expects to get hurt at work, but if that happens, there are several steps workers should take to provide themselves with the best medical care and to protect their rights as an employee.
If you are injured at work, aggravate a pre-existing physical problem at work, or develop a disease from your job, you are entitled to Workers’ Compensation benefits. Yet, many workers are told by their employers to apply for group insurance benefits when they really should be covered by Workers’ Compensation. Group benefits, which also are called sickness and accident benefits, or S&A Benefits, are disability benefits to which you are entitled if you have a non-work-related injury or illness. If your injury or illness is work-related, even partly, you should apply for Workers’ Compensation benefits. Workers’ Compensation benefits are better than group benefits for many reasons, including:
If you are denied Workers’ Compensation benefits, you should apply for group benefits, and immediately contact an experienced Workers’ Compensation lawyer to help you file for benefits. The group insurance carrier should pay your disability benefits if you are denied benefits. Receiving group benefits will not prevent you from filing a claim; you will not be liable for payment of your medical bills and will receive payment equal to the difference between Workers’ Compensation benefits and the group benefits.
If your work causes any injury, illness, or disease, you are entitled to Workers’ Compensation. If your job contributed to or aggravated your disability, you are entitled to Workers’ Compensation benefits, regardless of your previous condition. This is also true for back injuries, neck injuries, or for any other condition that you had prior to your work-related injury. If your job aggravated the condition causing your disability, you are entitled to Workers’ Compensation benefits. This is true regardless of your previous condition. For example, if you had a heart attack or open-heart surgery and your job causes you to sustain another heart attack or disabling chest pain, you are entitled to receive Workers’ Compensation benefits.
Do not let your employer tell you that you are not entitled to Workers’ Compensation just because you had a prior back problem, heart problem, or lung problem. This simply is not true. You have a right to Workers’ Compensation regardless of your prior condition.
Accidental injury can be a single event. It is easy to understand, and injured workers feel the effects immediately. Disease and illness, however, often result from working conditions, but the way they develop may be complex and not well understood. Many workers are exposed to different chemicals, solvents, fumes, dirt, dust, and other health hazards at work. These agents can cause various diseases and illnesses and, in some cases, even can result in death. If your disease or illness was caused, in whole or in part, by your job, you are entitled to Workers’ Compensation benefits. If you suspect that your injury, illness, or disease is caused, in whole or in part, by your job, discuss this with your doctor. Explain why you think your job is causing your physical problems. If your doctor agrees that your job is the cause of your trouble, then you must tell or give notice to your employer. Notice means letting your employer know you have a disease or illness, and the disease or illness was caused by the job.
Compensation benefits should be paid within 21 days of the date the company is notified of an injury. The length of time that payments will continue will depend on the type of injury the worker experienced and the state in which they live. Those with a temporary total disability can receive benefits for 90 days in Pennsylvania and a maximum of 400 weeks in New Jersey. If a worker has a permanent partial disability, which means they are 49 percent or less disabled and assumes they cannot return to work within 90 days, they can receive a benefit of up to 500 weeks in Pennsylvania. In New Jersey, a worker can receive benefits for up to 600 weeks.
Workers’ Compensation exists to prevent injured employees from significant financial hardship because of a workplace injury. The benefits paid out to victims include the following:
There are a lot of rules and regulations regarding care and treatment you can receive from a doctor. In order to protect a worker’s rights, the Act provides for a Bill of Rights. The employer must advise you of your rights. The first notification usually comes at the time of hire or shortly thereafter. Your employer must not only orally explain these rules so you understand them but also provide you with a written document to sign, confirming that your employer has complied with the Act. The Bill of Rights must include the following:
We have found it is very unusual for employers to comply with this Bill of Rights. For example, even though you are supposed to have a right to choose a doctor from a list of physicians, often times the employer directs you to one particular doctor to receive treatment. Also, we rarely find that employees are even requested to sign a document confirming they have received notice of the Bill of Rights. Such a failure by the employer means the injured worker has the right to seek treatment from a physician of his or her own choice. In such cases, the employer must pay for treatment of that work injury.
If the company denies benefits, it should send a written notice of denial. If an employee receives the written notice of denial or hears nothing from the company within 21 days, an experienced Workers’ Compensation lawyer will help steer them through the appeals process, which can become lengthy, regardless of whether the employee works in Pennsylvania or New Jersey.
It is illegal for an employer to deliberately prevent an employee from filing an injury report. They may have several motivations why they would take this illegal action. They might be trying to make the company look good in terms of the number of at-work accidents. They could also not want to pay out a Workers’ Compensation claim, knowing that it will increase the company’s insurance rates. Although the employer might have their own motivation for preventing a worker from filing an injury report, they do not have the legal right to do so.
A company might also try to avoid paying out an actual Workers’ Compensation claim and attempt to settle with the employee immediately. In that situation, they might send the company’s lawyer to speak with the worker and attempt to pressure them into negotiating a settlement. The injured worker should not agree to speak with them or even discuss a settlement without speaking to a lawyer themselves.
The company may also try to intimidate an employee into dropping a claim through subtle warnings or peer pressure. They may get co-workers to try to convince the employee that their job could be in jeopardy if they elect to proceed with the Workers’ Compensation claim. Some employees might even tell stories of past incidents in which employees lost hours or benefits because of such a claim. Regardless, an injured employee should not allow co-workers to intimidate them; they should seek legal advice on how to handle these situations.
An employer cannot fire or discipline an employee in any way for reporting an injury or filing a claim for compensation. Firing a worker for filing a Workers’ Compensation claim is illegal and discriminatory.
Filing a claim for Workers’ Compensation is a complex process and is different in each state. To increase the chances of a successful outcome, injured workers should contact a Workers’ Compensation lawyer as soon as possible to assist with the claim. In Pennsylvania, it is important that an injured employee act quickly. They must inform their employer as soon as possible and seek immediate medical attention. This will bring more veracity to a claim. Injured workers have 120 days to inform their employer about the injury. However, if the employee reports the injury within the first 21 days, they can receive Workers’ Compensation benefits from the day they were injured. The injury may be reported after 21 days; however, that means the worker will receive benefits starting on the day they reported the injury.
The process in New Jersey is similar except that employees have only 90 days to report the injury to their employer. Otherwise, they will not be eligible for Workers’ Compensation benefits in the state. In general, an injured worker should seek medical attention and follow their doctor’s instructions. Failing to do so could provide the employer with an opportunity to deny benefits.
After reporting the injury, an employee must be proactive with their employer, as well as the company’s insurance provider. The employee should chronicle their interactions with the employer, making note of the time, date, and what the two parties discussed.
In Pennsylvania, the employer will file a Notice of Compensation Payable and Statement of Wages with the Pennsylvania Department of Labor. This important document will detail the employee’s wages, details of the injury, and the employee’s job description. The worker should make sure to obtain a copy of this document and scrutinize it significantly to make sure that all the information is accurate. Any incorrect information could lead to a delay in benefits or even a denial.
If you or a loved one was injured at work, the Philadelphia Workers’ Compensation lawyers at Galfand Berger LLP are ready to assist you. We will thoroughly review the details of your case and fully explain the process of filing for benefits. Our dedicated legal team will protect your rights and ensure that you receive the assistance you deserve for your injuries. To schedule a free consultation, please call us at 800-222-8792 or contact us online. From our offices in Philadelphia, Bethlehem, Lancaster, and Reading, Pennsylvania, we help clients throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey, including Allentown and Harrisburg.