It depends. Some cases are settled quickly-within weeks of an injury, and others can take many years. Some cases end up in litigation before a Work Comp Judge- and if this is the case, then it can take over a year sometimes to obtain a written Decision from the judge. Some cases will settle without litigation. However, all settlements must be approved at a hearing before a work comp judge. The length of a case depends on many factors, including whether the injured worker is out of work, whether there is a dispute between the doctors regarding the nature and extent of disability, and whether the time of injury employer can accommodate the injured worker's restrictions. So, there is no easy answer. Each case is unique and it is difficult to predict the course of the claim as the process is quite dynamic. Note that there is a 3 year statute of limitations which means the injured worker has to file a Claim Petition within 3 years of the date of injury. Notice must be given within 120 days.
Do I Need A Lawyer For My Pennsylvania Work Comp Claim?
It sounds self-serving, but it is true- injured workers who have legal representation tend to have much better odds at a successful outcome of their case. The fee is usually 20%, but the fee is contingent- which means that the injured worker does not pay the lawyer with cash or a check, but instead, the fee comes out of the weekly or bi-weekly work comp checks. Or, if there is a settlement, the lawyer will receive 20% of the settlement amount. This contingent fee system levels the playing field with the wealthy insurance companies by allowing injured workers to obtain legal help without making out of pocket payments. Some injured workers will navigate the Pennsylvania Work Comp system alone, without help, but there are so many complex rules, and potential pitfalls, that an injured worker takes a risk in not having an understanding of what benefits they are entitled to or giving up. Once an Independent Medical Doctor issues a full recovery report, I generally get calls from claimants.
If I Had A Pre-Existing Injury To The Same Body Party, Can I Still Pursue Work Comp Benefits In Pennsylvania?
Yes. However, you will need to show that your work injury is an aggravation of an old/prior injury, or a new injury altogether. So, a pre-existing injury does not prevent you from pursuing a work comp claim, but you need medical evidence from an expert to establish that your work activity has caused an aggravation of the old injury. Cases that involve aggravations of old injuries tend to be aggressively defended by the insurance companies/employers as it is easier for them to "muddy the waters" by arguing the work injury is a mere recurrence of the old injury- rather than an aggravation. The case outcome will depend on how the judge views the medical evidence from the experts (usually a doctor will testify in a deposition) and the credibility of the injured worker.
For more info about Pennsylvania Work Comp, feel free to contact Mike 7 days a week at 215-206-9068 or at [email protected]
Is The Pennsylvania Work Comp System Fair?
Yes. The law is generally fair and so too are the judges. While judges have their own backgrounds and experiences, they try to listen to the evidence with an open mind and make fair rulings. Unless a case settles, there will likely be some Court rulings on specific issues and this means, of course, that one side wins and one side loses when a Decision is rendered. So, it is natural for injured workers or insurers to believe they did not get a fair shake. There is an appeals process if a party feels the judge did not consider certain evidence or if the judge did not apply the law properly. It is not easy to overturn a judge's Decision, but the appeals process is likewise fair- however,it does give a certain amount of deference to the underlying judge's findings.
Having practice in PA Work Comp for over 14 years, I can tell you that the system is fair and that the judges try to issue fair Decisions. This doesn't mean you win every single case but they really try to get it right.
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