Questions for a Hazleton Workplace Injury Lawyer
Workplace injuries are an unfortunate risk and reality for employees across all sectors. In fact, a Bureau of Labor Statistics report published in 2019 noted that in 2018, there were 2.8 million nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses. That, of course, does not even include the many devastating fatalities that also occur in workplaces each year.
A city like Hazelton in particular poses an immense risk of workplace injury, due to the prevalence of warehouse jobs such as those at Amazon, UPS, Frito-Lay, and more. In a warehouse, the risk of something like a forklift-related injury alone is enough to make anyone nervous.
If you or a loved one has sustained a workplace injury, we are deeply sorry for your trauma. The good news is that. But we’d also like to assure you that there is help to be found, and that you may eligible to receive workers’ compensation. We understand that you, like many others, may be overwhelmed by this complex system and unsure where to start. You may also be nervous about consequences that could come from entering a potential legal battle with your employer.
At Munley Law Personal Injury Attorneys, we can assure you that it is absolutely within your rights to pursue workers’ compensation, and we are here to help you do that. Read on to find answers to all your worker’s compensation questions, and do not hesitate to contact a Hazelton workers’ compensation lawyer today for a free initial consultation.
Frequently Asked Questions in Hazleton Workers Compensation Cases
Q: What is Workers’ Compensation?
A: Workers’ compensation, often referred to as “workers’ comp”, is a federal program within the U.S. Department labor. It is a state-mandated insurance program that offers payment to those who have been hurt or experienced an occupational disease while at work. It’s an extremely common way for workers who have been injured on the job to cover medical expenses and make up for lost wages. Workers’ compensation can be paid out by private insurance companies, the State workers’ Insurance Fund, or self-insured employers, and most Pennsylvania workers’ (with some exceptions) are guaranteed coverage by the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act. This compensation available through the Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs covers four main areas:
- Wage replacement benefits
- Medical treatment
- Vocational rehabilitation
- Other benefits
Q: What Kind of Accidents and Injuries Does Workers’ Compensation Cover?
A: Most workers are likely aware that workers’ compensation will cover injuries that occur as the result of an accident. For instance, if a warehouse worker is injured by a forklift or a piece of machinery, they are most likely eligible to receive workers’ compensation. However, some may not realize that workers’ comp also covers injuries that are not specifically caused by a singular accident.
A huge amount of workplace injuries are caused by repetitive motion; in fact, these are “the country’s most costly category of workplace injuries and illnesses”. Repetitive motion injuries, also known as repetitive stress injuries and musculoskeletal disorders, are not caused by a single accident or incident; rather, they are caused by the extensive repetition of a motion or set of motions, causing great damage to the individual’s muscles, tendons, nerves, and soft tissue. Employees who consistently lift heavy items, or who repeat the same motion for hours at a time, such as assembly line workers, are at great risk of sustaining this kind of injury.
Additionally, workers’ compensation covers occupational illnesses that develop as a result of on-the-job exposure. This can include anything from black lung to asbestosis.
If you have experienced an injury of this kind, it is absolutely within your legal and ethical rights to pursue workers’ compensation. However, the unfortunate reality is that some employers and insurance companies may push back against workers’ compensation claims that revolve around repetitive stress injuries or occupational illnesses, especially in cases where they could argue that the injury or illness was obtained elsewhere. An experienced Hazelton workers’ compensation lawyer can fight for you and ensure that you are not short-changed or underserved by a problematic system.
Q: Am I Eligible for Workers’ Compensation if I Am Traveling or Working Remotely?
A: That depends. Pennsylvania has something called the “coming and going rule”, which essentially means that employees are not covered by workers compensation when commuting to or from work. However, this rule does have a caveat: it applies only to stationary employees, or employees who have a fixed place of commute that they go to and from on a daily basis.
If, however, you are a traveling employee (meaning you have no fixed place of employment and travel to various locations by necessity of your job), you are covered by workers’ comp during that travel. So an office employee who gets into a car accident on her way home from work cannot file for workers’ compensation, but a cable technician who gets into an accident while traveling to a job in a company vehicle can.
Of course, now more than ever, people are working remotely. This has opened a new conversation about workers’ comp, namely raising the question, “Are remote workers covered by workers’ compensation?” The answer is a resounding yes, although the process may be slightly more complicated. The burden is on the injured party to prove that the injury occured as they were specifically acting in the interest of the employer.
This means that if you were burned while cooking lunch at home, you may not be eligible. If, however, you were at home doing a task specifically related to your job and sustained an injury, you are most likely eligible for compensation. Contact a Hazelton workers’ compensation attorney today if you were injured while working remotely. We are waiting to review your case and provide a free initial consultation.
Q: How Much Workers’ Compensation Will I Get for My Lost Wages?
A: Yes, part of the role of workers’ compensation is to make up for the injured party’s lost wages, though there is a limit to how much each person can receive. Generally (though there are exceptions), most people will receive about ⅔ of their pre-injury salary each week. Under Pennsylvania law, as of the calendar year 2022, this amount is capped at $1,205 weekly, though this amount changes each year. Additionally, how long you can receive these benefits depends on the specifics and severity of your injury or illness.
Remember that if you have any issue receiving your benefits in a timely fashion, or if you are unsure whether you are receiving full benefits, you can contact a Hazelton workers’ compensation lawyer at any time.
Q: What is the Difference Between Total Disability Status and Partial Disability status?
A: The severity and extent of your injuries will impact how much workers’ compensation you are eligible to receive. The two overarching sectors are total disability and partial disability, and within that, there are differences depending on whether the disability is temporary or permanent.
Total disability means that the individual cannot perform any work whatsoever for the time being. An individual experiencing total disability (whether permanent or temporary) will receive, in most cases, two-thirds of their pre-injury salary each week, capped currently at $1205 weekly. It is theoretically possible for these benefits to continue for life, though it’s not common. The injured party’s employer or insurer may ask them to be medically re-evlauated after 104 weeks, to determine if their disability status is still the same. At this point, if the individual is deemed to be more than 50 percent disabled, they are considered totally disabled and will continue to receive the same benefits.
Partial disability is an impairment rating of less than 50 percent. In this case, the individual can continue to receive benefits for only an additional 500 weeks.
According to the Social Security Administration, partial disability benefits are paid “when the injured worker cannot return to regular work and is given a light duty job at a lower wage, or is found not totally disabled.” In most cases, this is paid at a rate of 2/3 of the difference between the worker’s wages before and after their injury, and can be paid for a maximum of 500 weeks.
Unfortunately, insurance companies sometimes knowingly mislabel a person’s disability status in order to avoid paying them any further. If you feel that your disability status has been misjudged, or if you are not sure that you’re receiving maximum benefits, please contact a Hazelton workers’ compensation lawyer. We can work with you, your employer, the insurance company, and the medical team to ensure you are accurately assessed and fairly paid.
Q: How Do I File for Workers’ Comp?
A: If you have sustained an injury or an occupational disease at your workplace and do not fall into one of the exempted categories named above, you will most likely want to pursue workers’ compensation. Of course, your very first step after sustaining the injury should be to seek medical care and prioritize your safety and health.
Beyond that, you should alert your employer about your injury immediately. You have 21 days to alert your employer in order to receive benefits starting from the date of your injury. If you wait more than 21 days, your benefits will start from the date of your claim. If you wait longer than 120 days, you may lose your right to seek any benefits at all. It is always best to avoid waiting that long. Tell your employer as soon as possible.
Once you’ve alerted your employer, it is their obligation to file a First Report of Injury with the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation. This kick starts your benefits process, and your employer must do so within three days of your first missed shift (or 48 hours if the accident resulted in a death).
Your employer will also notify their insurer or insurance company, and it’s then up to the insurance company to examine the accident and injury and determine whether the claim is valid. If the insurance company accepts your claim, you will receive a Notice of Compensation Payable, and will begin to receive workers’ compensation benefits. In some cases, you will be issued a Notice of Temporary Compensation Payable, which means the insurance company has not yet reached a decision about your claim, but is willing to offer you some benefits in the meantime. Remember that It’s in your best interest to hire an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer such as the Hazelton workers’ compensation attorneys at Munley Law Personal Injury Attorneys as soon as possible after your injury.
Q: What Do I Do if My Claim is Denied?
A: If your claim is denied, there’s no need to panic. There are many reasons for a claim to be denied, and in almost all cases, this decision can be petitioned and appealed. Doing so can be a somewhat arduous process, so it’s best to approach it with the assistance of an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer.
Your claim may be denied because your employer claims there is insufficient evidence to prove that the accident and injury were work related. Perhaps the injury was not reported in time, or the claim was filed late. In any case, you may appeal. In fact, many insurance providers rely upon the notion that most people won’t want to take the time or effort required to appeal a decision. Under Pennsylvania law, you and your lawyer have three years from the date of the injury to file a Claim Petition if your claim is denied. This petition is then assigned to a judge, and a hearing is scheduled.
Ultimately, the judge will circulate a decision, and if you and your attorney would like to appeal this decision as well, you have 20 days from the time of the judge’s decision to do so. In this case, you would then file an appeal with the Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board.
An Experienced Hazleton Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Can Help
All of this can sound overwhelming, but it’s extremely possible with the aid of a Hazelton workers’ compensation lawyer. At Munley Law Personal Injury Attorneys, we have been working on behalf of Pennsylvanians for more than 60 years. We are experts in workers’ comp litigation and are prepared to navigate this entire process with you. And we don’t get paid unless we win your case. Contact us today for a free consultation.