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Concussions In Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Cases

  • Dave Brown, Esquire
  • 07/17/2023

It’s hard to watch an NFL game these days without seeing at least one player take a hit to the head that requires him to go to the sideline for the medical staff to perform tests to determine if he suffered a concussion. But it’s not just athletes competing in football games and other sports that sustain concussions; people in the workplace sometimes suffer concussions as a result of motor vehicle accidents, getting hit in the head with an object, or falling to the ground and striking their head, to name a few. If you do hurt your head at work, you may be entitled to Pennsylvania workers’ compensation. Learn more.

So what should you do if you sustain a head injury and think you may have a concussion due to something that happened at work? First, promptly report your injury to your supervisor or to another person in a managerial position. Second, if your employer has a list of medical providers for employees to see for a work injury, which is called a panel list, you should make sure that you are evaluated by one of these providers as soon as possible. If your employer has a panel list, it should be posted at your workplace. There will be an occupational medicine facility on this list, which your employer will likely send you to.

If your employer does not have a panel list, you are permitted to see a doctor of your choice. If your symptoms are severe, you should go to a local emergency room or an urgent care facility. If your symptoms are not severe but still concerning, you may want to start by making an appointment with your primary care physician. This physician may then refer you to a neurologist, who has expertise in treating head injuries.

The big question is: will the workers’ compensation insurance company for your employer accept your claim for a head injury? An insurance company is required to do one of three things within 21 days of being notified of your injury: deny the claim completely; accept the claim completely and pay you money for your lost wages if you are not working, as well as your medical bills; or accept only the medical part of your claim by paying your bills but denying payment for your lost wages. It seems unfair that if you sustain a head injury at work and are unable to do your job, the insurance company would decline to pay you money. But believe us, it happens, and it will be stressful if it happens to you because you will be dealing with symptoms from your injury, in addition to a loss of income.

Keep in mind that a concussion can be more difficult to prove than, say, an injury to the back, shoulder, or knee making collecting Pennsylvania workers’ compensation due to a concussion more challenging. An MRI can show a herniated disc to to the back, a torn rotator cuff, or a torn medial meniscus, each of which is objective evidence of an injury. With a head injury, however, a CT scan of the brain is often normal and shows no bleeding of the brain, but that does not mean there was no concussion. A doctor usually diagnoses a concussion based largely on the patient’s subjective complaints. There are a myriad of symptoms a person with a concussion will experience, including headaches, dizziness, loss of balance, nausea, sensitivity to light, blurred vision, slurred speech, and difficulty thinking, concentrating, and remembering.

Other important facts about concussions: a person does not have to lose consciousness in order to sustain a concussion. Loss of consciousness strongly supports a concussion diagnosis, but even if there is no loss of consciousness, a person can still suffer a concussion based on their symptoms. Also, it is possible for someone to sustain a concussion without taking a direct hit to the head. If a person’s body shakes vigorously – for example, from a rear-end car accident – the brain can be jostled, causing a concussion.

How long is a concussion expected to last, and what type of treatment is provided? The short answer to the first question is that some concussions resolve quickly, from a few days to a few weeks, while some can persist for several months, and in rare cases, several years. If a person’s concussion symptoms last beyond two months, give or take, the condition is then characterized as post-concussion syndrome. The symptoms are the same for post-concussion syndrome as a concussion, but they are just not temporary. Hopefully, for the person that is injured, they will not become permanent.

Doctors offer different types of treatment for concussions. Some doctors believe that rest is the key to recovery, especially in the immediate aftermath of the injury. The theory is that a person should avoid physical and mental activity as much as possible so the brain can recover from the injury. Vestibular therapy is commonly provided for people whose primary symptoms are loss of balance and dizziness. Other types of therapy, as well as medications, are other treatment modalities for concussions and post-concussion syndrome.

If you sustain a head injury at work — whether it’s a concussion or not — or any other type of injury, we urge you to contact Pearson Koutcher Law. At Pearson Koutcher, workers’ comp. is all we do. We have a team of very experienced, knowledgeable, and compassionate Pennsylvania workers’ compensation lawyers who will fight tooth-and-nail with the insurance company to get you the benefits you deserve. We have handled numerous cases over the years in which injured workers have sustained concussions. Please contact us today for a free consultation.