Will The Judge Make A Decision At My First Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Hearing?

Generally speaking, the answer is NO.

If your claim was denied by the Employer/Insurer, then you will be litigating what’s called a Claim Petition before a Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Judge. The judge, in this context, does not make any Decision at the first hearing. Most judges will hear the injured worker’s testimony at the first hearing, although some judges hold a “Pre-Trial” where they simply confer with the attorneys about the landscape of the case and evidentiary matters. After the first hearing, most judges will follow the Special Rules and allow each side 90 days to present their medical and factual evidence. That accounts for 6 months between both sides and doesn’t include possible extensions as a result of the unavailability or scheduling conflict of witnesses. After the record closes, the parties have to submit written arguments, called Briefs. The workers’ compensation judges will usually allow approximately 90 days or so for these to be submitted after the record closes. Then, it’s a waiting game for the Decision to arrive in the mail- that can take a few weeks to several months depending on the judge’s case load.

If you are already receiving Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation benefits, your first hearing is likely to be a Supersedeas Hearing after the Employer/Insurer has filed a Petition to Terminate, Suspend, or Modify benefits. Even at these hearings, the judges do not make any Decisions. They will issue an Interlocutory Order within a few weeks of the Supersedeas Hearing, which is an Order that is not subject to appeal, and it will advise the parties as to whether the wage loss benefits will continue as the rest of the litigation unfolds. Supersedeas can be a tricky concept so feel free to call me for further explanation as it applies to your case.

It can be extremely frustrating for an injured worker to comprehend how long the litigation process takes. There are many reasons why it takes this long. First, in the United States, we are lucky to have Due Process- the right to be heard. Both sides- that is, the injured worker and the Employer, have the right to present evidence supporting their respective positions. Second, Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation is a high volume area of the law with many cases and only so many judges to hear them. Third, it is not easy obtaining deposition dates from a doctor when trying to coordinate it with the busy schedules of two or more attorneys, a court reporter, etc. These are just some of the reasons why it can take a year or more to reach a conclusion in a PA Work Comp case. Remember, however, that the majority of cases will settle. The settlements can be effectuated by a Compromise & Release- a “global” settlement if you will, or by a Stipulation, or even by a Supplemental Agreement.

The key for injured workers is cash flow. If your claim was denied, and if the litigation can take up to a year to resolve, finding a way to survive financially is paramount. A few options to look into are: short and long term disability, unemployment compensation, and social security disability. I will be happy to discuss how to apply for these benefits and what impact, if any, the receipt of such benefits will have on your case.

I am available 7 days a week for a free consult. I am one of approximately 75 attorneys across the entire State of Pennsylvania, who represents injured workers and who is a Certified Specialist in Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation. I don’t dabble in many types of cases like most attorneys- I only handle Pennsylvania Work Comp cases for injured workers.

Free Consults, The Cardamone Law Firm 215-206-9068 or email MyPhillyWorkersComp@Gmail.com

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