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Lawyers Representing Claimants In Workers’ Compensation Hearings
You may be wondering what happens at a workers’ compensation hearing, about the process of bringing a claim and of appealing a denial, or about the general timelines of a workers’ comp court case in Pennsylvania. Our lawyers are here to answer your questions.
The exact nature and order of the hearing and appeals process may vary, depending upon whether you are filing an initial claim for workers’ compensation or are appealing a modification, suspension or termination of workers’ compensation benefits. It will also vary slightly based upon who is filing the specific petition — whether it is the injured worker or the employer or insurance carrier.
Our workers’ compensation attorneys are certified specialists in workers’ comp laws by the Pennsylvania Bar Association. When you contact Wolf, Baldwin & Associates, P.C., one of them can help you understand how the hearing process is likely to work in your specific case.
Before The Hearing
An injured worker should report his or her injury to the employer within 21 days of the injury (or knowledge of an occupational illness), and in all cases must report the injury within 120 days. If the injury is not reported in a timely manner, workers’ compensation wage loss benefits cannot be claimed, and the claim may be barred entirely. (The notification requirement is different for progressive diseases.) Your employer is required to report the injury to its insurance carrier.
Within 21 days of having notice of the claim, the insurance carrier is supposed to issue a Notice of Denial, a Notice of Temporary Compensation Payable, or a Notice of Compensation Payable. If you received any of these documents, you should consult with a lawyer to review the document and determine whether it was prepared correctly. You may need the help of a lawyer to protect your rights to workers’ comp benefits.
The Hearing Process
The employee has up to three years from the date of injury to file a Claim Petition if the claim was initially denied. After a claim petition is filed, a workers’ compensation judge is assigned to the case. The judge will typically schedule the first hearing within 10 to 30 days. In most cases, if a petition was filed by the injured worker, he or she will be expected to testify at that first hearing.
If the petition was filed by the employer, the first hearing is usually a supersedeas hearing, at which the employer will request an order from the judge which will allow it to stop paying the workers’ wage loss benefits while litigation is pending. The injured worker is usually not required to appear at this type of hearing, but his or her lawyer will be there to represent the injured worker.
Whichever party filed the petition will typically have 90 days to present the rest of the case. Usually this includes a medical deposition — testimony of a physician on the record, but taken outside of the courtroom. A transcript of that testimony is given to the judge. Most judges in southeastern Pennsylvania bring the two parties back to court 90 days after the first hearing to make sure the moving party has taken his or her expert deposition. This is called a status hearing and can include other testimony.
The responding party has 90 days after that to present their case, which may also include expert deposition testimony or the presentation of fact witnesses or other evidence. The judge may schedule the case for mediation, which is a settlement conference designed to get the parties together to try to resolve the case.
There will usually be a final hearing for any additional evidence to be presented and a date will be set for the lawyers to file written arguments (briefs) with the court. The judge will generally allow 30 to 45 days for the first party to file, and then 15 to 30 days for the responding party to file.
The judge has 30 days to issue a decision but it may take longer. A fully litigated case can take seven to eight months, or longer, from the time the first petition is filed until the judge issues a decision.
Is The Injured Worker Getting Paid During This Time?
If this hearing is about workers’ compensation termination of benefits, or modification or suspension, the employer is often required to continue payments during the hearing process. If the employer denied the claim from the very beginning, the worker will not be getting paid, and would not receive any wage loss benefits until the judge awards the benefits.
A Workers’ Compensation Claims Appeal
If your workers’ comp petition is denied, you have 20 days to file an appeal with the Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board (WCAB). The Appeal Board will schedule an argument hearing at which the attorneys will appear, but not the injured worker or employer. The WCAB will hear legal arguments, and the attorneys will file another set of legal briefs. The Appeal Board will often take up to a year to issue its decision.
From an adverse decision of the WCAB, either party can file an appeal with the Commonwealth Court, and if that is unsuccessful, they may file a Petition for Allowance of an Appeal with the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court does not have to allow the appeal from the Commonwealth Court.
Get Experienced Guidance Throughout The Workers’ Comp Process
Offices in Pottstown, West Chester, Reading and Pennsburg, Pennsylvania, serving communities such as Malvern, Douglassville, Leesport, Montgomeryville, Coatesville and Devon
The workers’ compensation appeals attorneys at Wolf, Baldwin & Associates, P.C., have taken cases all the way to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. We are well-prepared to handle initial claims and all appeals. We represent injured workers throughout southeastern Pennsylvania. Contact a Pennsylvania denied claims attorney online for a free consultation.
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