Injured on the Job in Pennsylvania?  Here are the Basics
By:  Kevin J. McGarrey, Esq.


Uh-oh, you just fell from a ladder and hurt yourself while on the job.  What happens now?  This is a frightening scenario for most workers.  Your ability to earn a paycheck is the engine that keeps your family going.  Without your paycheck your family would be in dire straights.

Don’t panic just yet.  Under Pennsylvania law, your employer is required to carry Worker’s Compensation Insurance or “self insure” himself for just such an occurrence.   You should be able to receive a paycheck and have your medical bills covered by this insurance. 
But where do you start?  The law is complex and your employer doesn’t always have your best interest at heart.  The following is a beginner’s guide of what to do if you’ve been hurt at work.
Do I have an injury that’s covered?
A "work injury" is any injury, medical condition or disease that is caused by a person's job, according to Section 301(c)(1) of the Pennsylvania Workers' Compensation Act, 77 P.S. §411(1). The Act does not list specific types of injuries, other than the requirement that the condition must be related to the worker's employment. In addition, a work injury also includes occupational diseases and pre-existing conditions that are aggravated by a person's job. This means that everything from broken bones to strains and sprains to latex allergies to hepatitis may be considered a work injury.

Basically if you have an injury, disease or disability that was caused by your employer, you are covered by the Worker’s Compensation Act of Pennsylvania.

What do I do after I’ve been injured?

You must tell your employer about the accident as soon as possible. Section 311 of the Workers' Compensation requires that notice of an injury be given within twenty-one (21) days after it occurs, or at the latest, within 120 days of the injury. Always tell your boss about ANY injury, no matter how small you think it is.  The injury may be worse than you think and your rights to benefits can be denied if you don’t meet the notification requirements.

Whose doctor do I see?

You have to treat with your employer’s doctor for 90 days from your first visit.  Your employer needs to have 6 approved doctors for you to choose from.  There are other notification rules that the employer must follow if he wants you to use his “approved medical providers”.  If the employer fails to provide the aforementioned 6 physician choices and fails to notify you of your rights under the PA Worker’s Compensation Law, in writing, you can treat with any doctor you choose.   Be careful, if you choose to treat with a doctor that is not on the approved list, you could be held liable for the medical bills.


That reminds me, who pays my medical bills?

If you have a work injury ALL of your medical expenses related to that injury are paid for by your employer.  You should not have to go into your pocket for anything.


When do I begin to get paid if I can’t work?

Your employer (usually through their insurance company) has 21 days to either accept or deny your claim.  They will either issue a “Notice of Compensation Payable” or a “Notice of Compensation Denial”.  Prior to your receiving any payments, you must show medical proof that you are actually injured and can’t perform your work duties. Your first check will make up for any wages lost after your work injury.  Your subsequent checks will be based on a formula that is described below.

How much “Worker’s Comp” will I receive?

Most insurers send out checks every two weeks.  Your benefit check will be 2/3 of the wage you received prior to your being hurt.  Make sure you count ALL of your earnings, not just the wages earned from the employer who you were working for when you were hurt.  If you have a second job and can’t work that job because of an injury sustained while working with your primary employer, you should receive benefits for that job too.  There are limitations to how much you can get so highly compensated employees get a bit of a raw deal as they may not get a full two-thirds of their “average weekly wage”

Once you have your “Notice of Compensation Payable” you should begin to receive your benefits.  Keep treating with the company doctor for the aforementioned 90 days and then get treatment from the doctor of your choice.  It is advisable to get back to work as soon as you are cleared by your physician. Should you receive a denial of compensation benefits or receive notice from the employer’s insurance company that your benefits are going to be terminated or modified prior to your full recovery, you should call an experienced worker’s compensation attorney.

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