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Pennsylvania workers' compensation: 4 things you should know

Many of the cities in Pennsylvania were built around specific industries, like manufacturing plants and steel mills -- and many of those industries are still thriving today.

Unfortunately, employees in those industries are exposed to dangerous working conditions as a matter of course -- and even the safest workplace sometimes still has an accident. That makes it important to know both your rights and your responsibilities under workers' compensation as an injured employee.

1. Your employer can't pay you unless he or she knows that you are injured. You're generally expected to notify your employer within 21 days of the injury. If you wait longer than 120 days after being injured to notify your employer, no compensation will be allowed. You have up to three additional years, however, to make your claim for compensation.

2. If you are suffering from an occupational disease, it has to develop within 300 weeks (a little over 5 and 1/2 years) from the date of your last employment in a field that exposed you to the hazard behind your disease in order to entitle you to benefits. You have an additional three years from the date you become aware of your injury to file.

3. You're entitled to a variety of benefits as part of workers' compensation:

-- Health care, including surgery, doctor's visits, medicine, medical equipment and lab tests

-- Up to 500 weeks of partial disability payments if you are able to work but not quite at full capacity

-- Total disability payments if you are entirely unable to work

-- Compensation for a permanent injury, like a scar, lost digit or damaged limb

4. You are free to choose your own medical provider unless your employer accepts your claim and has posted a list of six or more physicians. You must then choose from among the providers on the list for treatment and continue with one of them for 90 days -- after which you are free to choose your own treatment provider. Your employer is entitled to receive monthly reports about your condition from your physician. You can also be required to attend a consultative exam with a physician of your employer's choosing in order to maintain your benefits.

There are many more complex issues that can arise with workers' compensation. An attorney can provide more information about your specific situation.

Source: Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry, "Workers' Compensation and the Injured Worker," accessed March 24, 2017

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