During a work injury case, the ideal conclusion is to reach a settlement or a compromise that mutually benefits both parties. Nobody wants the case to drag on in court. The injured employee wants quick recovery with reasonable benefits while employers want it settled because haggling over what an injured worker should get is not a good look for them.
Yet, things don’t always go as planned and negotiations can sometimes stall.
Injured workers in Pennsylvania usually come to us to find out how their case will proceed if no agreement can be reached. The simple answer is, if a case doesn’t settle by way of a Stipulation, or a Compromise and Release Agreement, then a Workers’ Compensation Judge will intervene and decide the issues at hand.
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How Do They Do This? Let’s Find Out.
1. Briefings Will Be Filed
The Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Judge will admit evidence into the record. Then, in many cases, at a final hearing, the Work Comp Judge will issue a Briefing Schedule.
Briefs are the written arguments from each party’s attorney. The Brief will include a summary of the facts, the relevant Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation law, regulation, or case law, and an argument section.
Normally, the moving party — the party that instigated litigation — will have to submit their brief first. It usually happens 45 to 60 days after the final hearing. Then the other side will generally have 30 to 45 days thereafter to submit their brief. Although, sometimes, the briefs are due at the same time. This will depend on the particular Work Comp Judge and what the attorneys ask for.
If it’s a Claim Petition and no benefits are being paid, this lengthy time period after litigation ends. Now, parties wait to receive a decision, and this waiting period can be quite frustrating. Conversely, if an injured worker is already receiving wage loss benefits, this lengthy process is helpful as the benefits continue at least until the decision comes out.
2. Credibility Decisions Will Be Made
The Pennsylvania Work Comp Judge will have to make credibility determinations about each witness. Which witness the Judge found most credible and why. These witnesses may include people who witnessed the accident — strangers on the road or other workers in the office. It may also be the company’s safety inspector who vouch for the safety practices in the building.
Usually, however, especially in cases where the injury or its extent is disputed, medical experts emerge as the most influential witnesses in the work comp case.
The Work Comp Judge will decide about issues relating to the medical evidence presented by both parties. The Judge may ask the medical experts things like whether the worker has recovered, whether the worker sustained a work-related injury, whether the worker has an earning power, etc.
When making decisions about witness’ credibility, you will find a paragraph wherein the Judge states “I find the opinions of Dr.___ to be more credible than Dr.____ “, and then list the reasons why. In most cases, there are about 3 to 4 more sentences explaining why the Judge found one doctor more credible than the other.
3. The Decision Will Be Given
A written decision, including the important Court Order, will be mailed to the parties around 30 to 60 days after the last brief is submitted. Here, again, each Judge is different with respect to the turnaround time.
While the decision usually isn’t delayed more than the 60 days maximum but this isn’t written in stone. If your decision is still not out after 60 days have passed, your PA work comp lawyer will get in touch with you and update you with the latest developments.
The Decision will list the Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law, and a Court Order. The court order will contain the instructions of the Judge regarding the decision of the case and how each party is supposed to proceed from there on out.
The Importance Of Credible Medical Experts
Medical evidence is often the key element to a petition that’s being litigated before a Pennsylvania Work Comp Judge. And, this is a big reason why injured workers need a lawyer. An average worker won’t know how to depose the medical doctor or how to prepare them.To begin with, most perhaps won’t even know how to get in touch with a credible doctor with relevant expertise required for a particular case.
Plus, oftentimes an injured worker won’t be able to afford the $1500 to $6,000 deposition fee of the doctor.
As you can see, there can be a real disparity here, but it arises from the specialties a doctor has to offer — from a regular physician to an expert neurosurgeon or orthopedic surgeon, for example.
To counter all that, our firm has a high winning percentage and a big reason is that we send our clients to reputable physicians. We have the fighting power and the financial leverage to go after big corporations that are denying your rightful injury compensation.
So, if you are looking for a strong legal representation in your work comp case, you’ve come to the right place.
Can The Decision Of The Judge Be Appealed?
Can the Decision of the Workers’ Compensation Judge — often referred to as WCJ — be appealed?
Yes, there is a 20 day appeal period to file, which takes the cases to the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board. That Decision can then be appealed to the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania. After that, the PA Supreme Court will take some cases depending on the issue.
So, even if a WCJ doesn’t rule in your favor on the first try, all the doors aren’t closed to you. With the right workers comp attorney on your side, someone with a fighting spirit, you can rest assured that your rights will be appealed and fought for, till you get the rightful dues that you are owed.
For more information about Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation law, call us anytime at 215-206-9068. Remember: All We Do Is Work Comp.