You have been injured at work and are pursuing a workers’ compensation claim in Pennsylvania. You are doing a deposition, and the transcript of your testimony will be submitted to the Workers’ Compensation Judge who is hearing your case. Your lawyer asks you questions about your job, your injury, doctors you have seen, medical treatment you have received, limitations you have due to your injury, and whether you are able to return to your job.
On cross-examination, the lawyer for the insurance company asks you some questions about your injury and treatment, and you confirm the details, essentially reiterating what you stated in response to your lawyer’s questions. The lawyer then asks you, “Have you travelled out of state since you have been receiving workers’ compensation benefits?” You pause for a moment, thinking about the weekend trip you took to the Jersey shore last summer during which you walked on the boardwalk, and the one-week vacation you took in the fall to visit your parents in Florida. Your work injury is to your back, and your doctor has limited you to four hours of sitting and four hours of standing in an eight-hour day, and no lifting of more than 15 pounds. You quickly recall your trip to the shore, and how you spent a lot of time walking on the boardwalk and the beach, and your vacation to Florida in which you were on a plane two and a half hours one way and spent a day at the Universal amusement park with your spouse and kids. It occurs to you that if you acknowledge going on these trips and describing your activities, the Judge may conclude that you are able to work, and therefore stop your benefits.
After pausing for a couple seconds as you ponder the question posed to you by the insurance company’s lawyer, you respond, “Yes, I have.” Believe us, that was the right answer. First and foremost, you always need to tell the truth when you testify under oath at a deposition or a hearing before the Judge. Second, if you deny that you went on these trips, and the insurance company for your employer has conducted surveillance of you on the boardwalk in New Jersey and the amusement park in Florida, you are cooked. Once you make a statement that is revealed to be a lie, your credibility before the Judge is shot – the Judge will likely reject all of your testimony as not credible.
As long as you’re candid when you testify, don’t think that simply because you have taken some trips while you’re on workers’ comp., the Judge will cut off your benefits. There is a big difference between walking on the boardwalk for an hour or two and spending a day with your family at an amusement park and being able to perform your full-time, full-duty job. Let’s say that you work at a warehouse, which requires you to be on your feet constantly as well as lift and carry boxes that weigh up to 40 pounds repetitively. If you did not do any heavy lifting during your trips, and you took breaks during your walks, this should not affect the Judge’s determination on whether you are capable of doing your pre-injury job. What can cause you problems in your case is if you were doing physical activities on your trips which are beyond your doctors’ restrictions, or contrary to what you testified to. So if you helped your brother move when you were in Florida and were carrying heavy sofas and dressers, the Judge is going to be hard-pressed to believe that you cannot lift 40-pound boxes at your job,
So the question in the big picture is: Are you allowed to travel outside the area while you’re receiving workers’ comp. benefits or have filed a claim and are seeking benefits? What can you and can you not do when you injure yourself at work and have a workers’ comp. claim? The short answer is that you can do anything that is within your physical capabilities as outlined by your doctor and when you testify. If your doctor has limited you to no more than 15 minutes of sitting at one time, and you testified that you don’t sit for longer than 15 minutes at a time – but you took a five-hour flight to California for a vacation, that will almost certainly raise the eyebrows of the Judge. Likewise, if you tell your doctor that you cannot lift more than 10 pounds, it would not be a good idea for you to be carrying 20-pound cases of water and bags of dog food.
So we’re not saying you have to be a hermit and never leave your house if you sustain a work injury and pursue a workers’ comp. claim. We understand that you still have to live life – you may have to participate in household activities, such as cooking, cleaning, and shopping; and you may have to pick up your kids from school or drive them to their activities. And you may want to go on occasional family trips. But if you are doing more physically than what you are reporting to your doctor you can do and what you testified about, that is potentially problematic for your case. We emphasize again, though, when you give testimony in your case, whether it is at a deposition or at a hearing before the Judge, always tell the truth; it’s the right thing to do, and it could come back to haunt you if you don’t.
Another important thing we can tell you is that if you injure yourself at work, you should contact Pearson Koutcher Law to discuss your case. At Pearson Koutcher Law, workers’ comp. is all we do. Our firm is comprised exclusively of workers’ comp lawyers who each has more than 25 years’ experience representing injured workers. We will talk to you about all aspects of your claim, including whether it’s okay for you to travel outside of the area while you have a workers’ comp. claim. If you need a Pennsylvania workers’ compensation lawyer near me, please call Pearson Koutcher Law for a free consultation.