Due to the complexities of your situation, it is highly recommended that you secure the services of an Attorney who is Certified as a Specialist in Pennsylvania Workers Compensation Law. Unfortunately, your situation is a common occurrence where a concomitant shoulder injury is not either treated and/or recognized initially due to the more severe injury to your cervical spine. Although the Carrier may have acknowledged the original injury to your neck, you may be required to file a Petition to Review Compensation Benefits.
Please note that most Attorneys will not charge for an initial consultation and will accept your claim on a Contingent Fee Basis.
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Richard's answer is spot on. What is probably going to happen is that you will get a lawyer, there will be some litigation about adding the shoulder to the accepted neck injury and then your claim is going to resolve. After that, you need to consider if filing for SSD makes sense for you. Bottom line, this can get pretty complicated fast, so you should seriously consider getting an attorney. Best of luck to you!
This is a very complicated set of facts. I highly recommend you seek an experienced WC attorney. There is no way anyone can give you good answers without sitting down with you, reviewing all of your information and understanding all of the specifics of your case. An initial consultation is free and without commitment. If you like the attorney, you can decide whether to retain him.
It is not possible to tell you what the average AMA rating is. The rating examination can only be performed when you have been paid 104 weeks of total disability and you have reached Maximum Medical Improvement (MMI). It does not sound like you are at MMI or will bet at MMI at any time in the near future. If you are going to have further surgery that will potentially affect the level of impairment that you suffer from your injuries, you are not at MMI.
That said, it takes a very serious combination of injuries to reach the 50% threshold provided for under the Pennsylvania Workers Compensation Act. If you do undergo the AMA rating examination (Independent Rating Evaluation or IRE), and your rating is under 50%, your benefits will be changed form temporary total disability benefits to partial disability benefits. The importance of this change is that, unlike temporary total disability benefits, there is a maximum number of weeks of partial disability that you can be paid. That maximum is 500 weeks.
If you do not think that you will be able to return to work, you should hire a workers compensation lawyer sooner, rather than later. Most cases involving a permanent injury that prevents return to work result in a lump sum settlement. A workers compensation lawyer will help you plan for that ultimate day. If you do begin to receive capped partial disability benefits, a lump sum settlement will become a good option for you. You don’t have to settle.You can choose to continue to receive weekly benefits until they max out. Most people, however, find that settlement is their best option.
But, there are certain fundamental truths about the settlement option. Number one, the amount you will receive will not be sufficient for you to live on for any significant period of time. In my experience, clients who have lived off their settlement run out of money in two years or less. Number two, for that reason, the settlement money should be used for something “special” like paying for retraining, going back to school, paying down a mortgage, or starting a business. The possibilities are as endless as your imagination. Number three, you must have a plan about what you are going to do after you settle your case.
Good workers compensation lawyers not only help you determine the settlement value of your case. They help you plan for and protect your future. If you are a younger individual, that might mean connecting you with the resources you need to seek a new career. If you are nearing the end of your working life, that might mean considering social security disability, disability retirement options, and other benefit systems to provide for your cash flow needs after you settle your case. Once again, there is no right plan that works for everyone. Your plan must be tailored to you, to your needs, to your circumstances.
Although you undoubtedly are spending a lot of time seeking medical treatment, you are no longer working 40 hours per week. Your income has been impaired. But you have one resource in greater abundance than you did when you are working – time. I urge you to use that time now, while you have it, to plan for your future.
As sure as the sun rises and sets, your employer’s insurance company is already planning for the end of your claim. That is what insurance companies do, they close claims. Don’t wait until the insurance company sets its sights on you. Be proactive. Choose a workers compensation lawyer that you feel you can work with for the months and years to come. Choose one who you feel will help you maximize the value of your claim. Choose one who will help you plan for and protect your future. Throw a “beauty contest” and interview a few lawyers before you choose one. But choose one soon.
This answer to your legal inquiry is based upon the limited facts stated in your question. Accurate legal advice is based upon an exchange between a lawyer and a client. The lawyer can then ask about other facts that may change or confirm the answer. Without that exchange, this reply should be considered limited in value. You should rely on this answer only at your own risk. Direct consultation with a lawyer is always recommended. Answering your question does not create an attorney-client relationship. The answering attorney is licensed in Pennsylvania and all answers are given pursuant to Pennsylvania law, unless otherwise indicated.