The Seven Big Myths About Pennsylvania Workers Compensation
Clients often think they understand how to handle a work injury or believe everything their employer tells them about workers compensation. Often times, it can lead to needless frustration, delayed medical treatment, or be harmful to individual rights under the Pennsylvania Workers Compensation Act. Let’s take a look at some of these misunderstood or mistaken myths.
Myth #1: I can be fired if I report a work injury
Firing an individual for filing a workers compensation claim is illegal and falls under Wrongful Termination and Retaliation. An injured worker has a potential separate cause of action in civil litigation against the employer for terminating employment because of a work injury. It can certainly be costly for an employer. If you believe you have been terminated for reporting a work injury, contact Mooney & Associates right away.
Myth #2: I can report a work injury to my employer whenever I want, regardless of when it occurred
Providing notice of injury to your employer has very specific notice deadlines. First, in order to be eligible for wage loss benefits from the date you were unable to work, you must provide notice of your injury within 20 days of the occurrence of the injury. If you fail to provide notice of injury to your employer within 20 days, you are not eligible for any wage loss benefits until the date you actually provide that notice. As an example, if you were injured and unable to work on 5/1/18, but did not provide notice of injury to your employer until 7/1/18, and that notice fact is proven, then you may be eligible for wage loss benefits as of 7/1/18, but not back to 5/1/18. HOWEVER and even more important, if you fail to provide notice of injury to your employer within 120 days of the date of injury, then benefits are forever BARRED. You will not be eligible for workers compensation benefits. The easiest way to avoid all this mess is to report a work injury immediately.
Myth #3: I have a pre-existing condition, so I can’t claim a work injury
Absolutely false. It is long standing law in Pennsylvania that an aggravation or exacerbation of a pre-existing condition can be a compensable work injury. An aggravation of a pre-existing degenerative condition constitutes a compensable work injury. SKF USA, Inc. v. Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board (Smalls), 728 A.2d 385, 387 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1999). To establish a compensable aggravation “the medical evidence [must] establish that the injury materially contributed to the disability rather than the disability resulted from the natural progress [ion] of a pre-existing condition.” Miller v. Workmen’s Compensation Appeal Board (Pocono Hospital) , 539 A.2d 18, 20-21 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1988) (citing Halaski v. Hilton Hotel, 409 A.2d 367 (Pa. 1979)). Whether an incident has materially contributed to the disabling injury “is a question of fact to be determined by the WCJ.” SKF, 728 A.2d at 388.
There is your case law. It is clear. It does not matter if you have a pre-existing condition, if something happened at work that worsened or caused an other wise non-symptomatic pre-existing condition to become symptomatic, it is a work injury. Employers will at times tell injured employees differently. Don’t believe it. Call Mooney & Associates if you believe you aggravated a pre-existing condition.
Myth #4: My employer will take care of me
Proceed at your own risk. When you are injured on the job, you become a liability to your employer. You may become, not just a medical liability, but a potential wage loss liability. That increases your employer’s workers compensation insurance premiums. Therefore, given the fact you are a liability, you should know where their interest lies. It lies with them, and them only.
When you are hurt at work, your rights are just too valuable to gamble with or trust your employer that you are costing money. Call Mooney & Associates right away so you have trusted and experienced advice on your side.
Myth #5: I am in pain, I do not have to return to light duty.
If your employer is offering you light duty work within YOUR doctor’s work restrictions, then not returning to work puts your benefits at risk. Your employer has a right under the Pennsylvania Workers Compensation Act to accommodate your work restrictions. Failing to return to work when offered light duty within your doctor’s work restrictions could lead to your wage loss benefits being suspended. If you have been offered a light duty position that does not comply with your doctor’s restrictions, you should contact Mooney & Associates right away to protect your wage loss benefits.
Myth #6: My employer and insurance carrier can’t get my social media information
They can and they will. Social Media evidence is discoverable in Pennsylvania.
Myth #7: Because of fear of my job, I just won’t describe to my doctor how I got injured
Many people fear their job when hurt at work. See the very first myth above. It can be quite damaging for your case if you lie to your doctor or withhold facts about your injury with your doctor. When you visit your doctor, your doctor is taking in everything you say and it will appear in the medical records. Those medical records will be critical to your case. That is why it is extremely imperative to be factual and honest with your doctor.
Count on Mooney
If you have been injured at work, don’t risk your benefits and rights under the Pennsylvania Workers Compensation Act. They are too valuable. Our legal team has decades of experience in complex workers compensation litigation. When you are hurt at work, you can Count on Mooney!
Mooney & Associates has 16 offices spread throughout Central Pennsylvania including: