If I Get Work Comp Benefits in Pennsylvania, How Long Do They Last?

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Theoretically, the wage loss and medical benefits can last a lifetime. However, this is exceedingly rare. Why is it rare? There are many reasons. First, some people will recover from their injuries. Also, many injured workers will settle their case for a lump sum rather than taking a risk in court in terms of having their benefits reduced or terminated. But the biggest reason is a concept called Partial Disability. Once an injured worker in Pennsylvania is converted to a Partial Disability status, the wage loss is capped at 500 weeks which is approximately 9.5 years.

There are two main ways to be converted to Partial Disability in Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation cases. First, if the injured worker has an earning power, whether by actually working after the injury, or as a result of an Impairment Rating Evaluation, then the 500 weeks starts to run. With respect to earning power, if an injured worker is working after the work-related injury, but earning less than the pre-injury average weekly wage, then they get Partial Disability- 2/3 of the difference between the pre-injury average weekly wage, and the actual earnings post injury. However, even if the injured worker isn’t actually working, they can be converted to a Partial Disability status. How so? By way of a Labor Market Survey/Earning Power Assessment where the insurer hires a vocational expert to establish an earning power. If if the jobs don’t result in a job offer, the Work Comp Judge can find that the injured worker can handle the jobs from a vocational ability and physical capacity standpoint. Similarly, if the pre-injury Employer offers a job and the assigned Work Comp Judge believes the worker can handle it, even if they aren’t actually working, the conversion can take place and wage loss benefits can be reduced accordingly.

With respect to the Impairment Ratings under Pennsylvania Work Comp Law, these are often done within 60 days of the expiration of 104 weeks of Total Disability- so after an injured worker is getting a full work comp checks for 2 years, these evaluations are frequently performed. Almost every injured worker gets an permanent impairment rating of less than 50% which converts the status from Total Disability to Partial Disability- this gets that 500 week clock ticking. This area of the PA Work Comp Law is currently being reviewed by the high courts in Pennsylvania as arguments have been put forth that these may not be constitutional.

The moral of the story here is that while it is theoretically possible to get Pennsylvania Work Comp for a life time, it is rare. Injured workers are constantly faced with “Independent Medical Exams”, and other mechanisms which threaten their checks and overall benefits status. This pressure usually leads to settlements. And even when settlements aren’t reached, the IREs will, in about 99% of cases, lead to a conversion to Partial Disability which then starts the 500 week clock.

For more information about Pennsylvania Work Comp, call or email Certified Pennsylvania Work Comp Lawyer Michael W. Cardamone 7 days a week at (215) 206-9068 or Michael@CardamoneLaw.com

Biz Carda Mike

What Happens At Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Hearings?

Sounds like a typical lawyer answer, but it’s true- the answer is that it depends.

Some hearings are for a brief discussion between the attorneys and the Work Comp Judge, called a “Pre -Trial” where no testimony is taken. Other hearings involve presenting evidence such as deposition transcripts and updating the Work Comp Judge as to the status of litigation. Sometimes a hearing is specifically slated for testimony of the injured worker or perhaps an employer witness, or the adjustor. Some hearings are specifically for a “Compromise and Release” which is a Pennsylvania Work Comp Settlement. In this type of hearing, the injured worker testifies briefly so that the Work Comp Judge can determine if they understand the full legal significance of the Agreement. In other instances, a hearing is held to submit a Brief, which is a written legal argument on an issue.

The duration of a hearing depends on what is happening of course. Some hearings can take one minute or less. Other hearings can take  hours.

The best way to determine what will happen at a given hearing is to speak to your PA Work Comp Attorney. Each Work Comp Judge handles their cases differently so it’s a case by case basis.

For more information about how Pennsylvania Work Comp Hearings work, call or email Attorney Michael W. Cardamone 7 days a week at (215) 206-9068 or Michael@CardamoneLaw.com