Yes. If you wish to appeal part of all of a Decision that was unfavorable to you, you can file an appeal to the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board within 20 days of the Decision from the Workers’ Compensation Judge.
It is strongly recommended that you review the Decision with your PA Work Comp Lawyer to determine if they will be taking an appeal and why or why not. If you were represented by an attorney who does not wish to appeal, you may appeal it yourself or try to find another attorney. However, this can be a difficult task because of several reasons: 1) A new attorney is unlikely to want a case that has already been rejected by a Work Comp Judge, 2) 20 days can go by quickly and it is difficult to catch up to speed on a case that fast, and 3) the legal burden to overturn a decision from a Work Comp Judge is fairly strenuous. This is not to say that you should simply accept the Decision of the Work Comp Judge, but it is to say that it is usually difficult to find a new attorney who will want to jump onboard.
Does the Appeal Board frequently overturn a Decision from a Work Comp Judge? I don’t know the statistics, but my experience is that it is quite difficult to get an unfavorable Decision overturned. It is more common to see a “remand” where the Appeal Board sends back a case to the Work Comp Judge to re-issue the Decision, with a more detailed review of specific evidence or a more detailed analysis of the reasoning behind a credibility determination. Some cases get overturned, but I imagine the number to be a small percentage.
What happens if the Pennsylvania Work Comp Appeal Board doesn’t agree with my appeal- can I take another appeal to a higher court? Yes. You can appeal the Decision of the Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board to the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania, and beyond that, to the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania- but the Supreme Court isn’t required to hear the case.
I get a few calls every month from injured workers who lost their case, but who were unrepresented (“pro se”) or had another attorney, and want me to file an appeal. I do not take many of these cases but I will review the case with an injured worker and share my thoughts. The key is to listen to your attorney during the litigation process and to ask him or her to tell you the strengths and weaknesses of the case and to give an approximate range as to the odds of success. Given the highly deferential nature of the appeal law, the time to communicate carefully with your Pennsylvania Work Injury Lawyer is before a Decision is rendered- and to take any recommendation of settlement seriously. Litigation is always unpredictable. That doesn’t mean you should settle just to settle- the settlement, of course, has to be fair given the facts of your case. But counting on a victory is never a wise thing to do either.
If you want information about how Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation works, call experienced PA Workplace Injury Attorney Michael W. Cardamone at (215) 206-9068 for free consults 7 days a week; or email Michael@Cardamonelaw.com