Workers’ compensation provides an essential safety net for employees who suffer injuries or illnesses in the course of performing their jobs. As a no-fault insurance program, workers’ comp enables employees to receive medical and wage replacement benefits while they recover from an injury or illness—without having to prove their employers or co-workers are to blame.
You would think that filing a claim and recovering benefits would be easy—or at least relatively straightforward—but the opposite is often the case. It is far too common to make workers’ compensation mistakes that jeopardize one’s ability to get benefits fairly and quickly.
In this blog, we will take a closer look at the most common Pennsylvania workers’ compensation mistakes and what you can do to avoid them.
At Handler, Henning & Rosenberg LLC, our workers’ compensation lawyers have helped numerous men, women, and families across Pennsylvania navigate all aspects of the workers’ comp claim process. Because we receive many questions from injured workers, and because we have seen first-hand how mistakes can make for additional challenges, we always take the time to educate our clients, explain their rights, and handle the legal work on their behalf. We even have a board-certified specialist in workers' compensation law on our team: attorney J. Jeffrey Watson, who was certified in 2018 by the Pennsylvania Bar Association Workers' Compensation Law Section.
While we encourage you to reach out to our firm following a work injury, we also want to provide some information that can help you avoid mistakes that could hurt your claim and your chances of receiving benefits.
The Most Common Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Mistakes:
Waiting to Report an Accident
If you have suffered an injury while on the job, it is critical that you report the accident and injury as soon as possible to your employer. By waiting to report an accident or not reporting it at all, you risk delays or denials of benefits. Remember, workers’ compensation is a no-fault insurance program, which means it does not matter who is to blame for the accident or injury, with some exceptions in certain cases. You have a right to secure benefits and the medical treatment you need—and you should exercise this right by reporting any injury or illness to your employer as soon as you can. Reporting your accident in a timely and complete manner is the first and most important step in a workers’ comp case.
In Pennsylvania, you have 21 days to report a work-related injury or illness to your employer. If you wait longer than 21 days, your ability to receive benefits from the date of injury may be jeopardized. You may lose your right to workers’ comp benefits entirely if you wait longer than 120 days to tell your employer. Be sure to inform your manager or supervisor in writing, and keep a copy for your records.
Expecting Your Doctor to File Your Claim for You
Under Pennsylvania law, it is your obligation to report your injury to your employer, and it should always be done first. Your doctor’s job is to provide the treatment you need for your injury, not to ensure you initiate the workers’ comp process and receive benefits. While you may seek an evaluation or treatment from your own doctor, when your claim is accepted, state law stipulates that you may be required to visit a healthcare provider who has been approved by your employer.
Using Your Own Health Insurance
Sometimes, injured or sick employees may feel that their conditions are not severe enough to warrant reporting, especially in cases involving repetitive trauma injuries or pre-existing conditions aggravated by workplace conditions. These people may seek medical care on their own. This is not a wise idea. Be warned that if you seek to treat a work-related injury on your own, medical bills can quickly add up. You also might not be fully aware of the nature and severity of your injury, which could very well require more intensive treatment and time away from work.
A common workers’ compensation mistake occurs when workers are injured and go straight to see their own doctor, expecting their health insurance to cover the costs. In Pennsylvania, you may be required to see an employer-approved doctor within the first 90 days following your injury. After 90 days, you can choose your own doctor. There are exceptions to this, however, so we recommend talking to an attorney about your particular case.
Using The Insurance Company’s Suggested Doctor & Not Getting a Specialist’s Opinion
You have the right to pick any doctor you wish, as long as you do so within the time constraints. Never accept the opinion of a general practice physician at the workers' compensation clinic as the last word on your work injury. Getting a second opinion can help you strengthen your claim while also ensuring that you're receiving the treatment that you need.
Using The Insurance Company’s Wage Calculator
There are multiple methods of calculating your average monthly wage. By law, you are entitled to benefits based on the highest possible calculation. Speaking with an attorney will help you decide if your calculated benefits are fair and legal.
Not Consulting an Attorney
This is perhaps the most common Pennsylvania workers’ comp mistake. Getting benefits for an on-the-job injury should be quick and easy, but the workers’ compensation process can be complex, especially if there are unique issues involved in a case. You may find that your claim is delayed, that your employer denies that your injury is work-related, or that your benefits will not cover all of your medical care, ongoing treatment, and lost earnings. You may even be pressured to return to work before you feel ready.
One of the best things you can do to ensure that your rights are protected, all procedural requirements are met, and you have the help you need is to consult with an experienced attorney. A legal professional who knows Pennsylvania’s Workers’ Compensation Act and the laws in place can protect your interests to the fullest extent. Instead of worrying about making ends meet now or wondering how you will provide for your family in the months and years to come, put a workers’ comp attorney in your corner who can help you build a brighter future.
Using a General Practice Attorney Who is Unfamiliar With PA Workers’ Compensation Law
When turning to an attorney, make sure that you're reaching out to one that's focused and experienced with employment law in Pennsylvania. Having a lawyer with the right experience can help you navigate through the complexities of your case.
Avoid Common Workers’ Comp Mistakes with Our Pennsylvania Firm on Your Side
At Handler, Henning & Rosenberg LLC, we go above and beyond in helping clients navigate the process and ensuring the right steps are being taken to secure their benefits. Additionally, our legal team has the extensive experience and breadth of legal knowledge to handle other challenging issues that may arise, including claim denials, third-party personal injury claims, and cases involving occupational diseases.
Don’t make workers’ compensation mistakes—work with an experienced and compassionate team that will fight for the fair treatment and recovery you deserve.
If someone you love was recently hurt on the job or if you have suffered an illness as a result of the work you perform, we invite you to speak with a workers’ compensation attorney from our firm during a free consultation. Learn more about your rights, your case, and how Handler, Henning & Rosenberg LLC can help! Contact us today.