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Filing Workers’ Comp. Claims During The Pandemic

  • Dave Brown, Esquire
  • 04/27/2020

With the courts in Philadelphia and the surrounding counties essentially closed except for emergency matters due to the COVID-19 crisis, you may be asking yourself these questions if you injure yourself at work. Will I be able to file for workers’ compensation benefits? What happens if the insurance company denies my claim? Will a judge hear my case? If you think that your case will not be heard until the shutdown is over, you will be relieved to know that the Pennsylvania workers’ compensation system is almost fully operational — and so is the top-rated workers’ compensation firm of Pearson Koutcher Law.

So if you were injured at work before the pandemic or have been brave enough to work during the shutdown and hurt yourself, or tested positive for the coronavirus, and you have not advised your supervisor of your injury or positive test results and that you are seeking workers’ comp. benefits because you are not able to work, do so immediately. And then contact Pearson Koutcher Law. Our lawyers and staff are working hard from home every day, and one of our experienced, knowledgeable workers’ comp. lawyers will speak with you on the phone (under normal circumstances, we will meet with you at our office, your home, a restaurant near your home – whatever you prefer), and send you paperwork to sign and return.

If your claim is denied by the insurance company – unfortunately, they deny most claims – we will electronically file a Claim Petition on your behalf with the Pennsylvania Bureau of Workers’ Compensation so we can fight for the benefits which you deserve; this includes money for lost wages and payment of medical bills. In the Petition, we will set forth all of the important information pertaining to your claim: the name of your employer, the job you performed, your date of injury, how you injured yourself, what injuries you sustained, whom you reported your injury to, and on what date you stopped working due to your injury. Your Petition will be promptly assigned to a Workers’ Compensation Judge in the county where you live, and a hearing will be scheduled to take place in about a month from the time the Petition was filed.

Typically, before the shutdown, and after things run their course and return to normal, the judge would hold a hearing in person. Some judges would require you to testify at the first hearing; other judges would require you to testify at a deposition and then testify before the judge later in the case. With the current state of affairs, judges are not holding hearings in person, but in order to move cases along for injured workers, they are holding hearings by phone – via conference call or Skype, in which the judge can see your face. Whether you testify by conference call or Skype, one of our lawyers will ask questions for you to answer about your job, injury, and medical treatment, and then the insurance company lawyer will ask you questions. A stenographer, who will also be participating remotely, will transcribe everything that is said, so there will be a formal record in writing of the hearing or deposition. If the hearing is held by Skype, the judge may also ask you some questions.

To win your case, you will need our firm to present medical evidence, which we usually do by deposition, from one of your doctors to establish that you sustained injuries at work, or contracted a medical condition such as the coronavirus, as a result of your job. Some doctors are seeing patients in their offices during the pandemic; other doctors are evaluating patients by “telemedicine” visits. It may not seem feasible that a doctor could evaluate you without seeing you in the office and conducting a hands-on exam., but telemedicine visits are what many doctors are doing during this crisis. The doctor will connect with you on your phone, and you will be able to see each other. You will tell the doctor how you injured yourself and what symptoms you are experiencing. While the doctor cannot press on your back or test your reflexes, they will be able to observe you while you are put through various tests, such as turning your head, raising your arm, or touching your toes. The doctor may order an MRI or other diagnostic tests for you, as well as physical therapy. Our firm can refer you to top doctors to treat you for your injuries, and if you feel comfortable undergoing an MRI or participating in physical therapy during this crisis, we can refer you to facilities which will provide these services.

These are stressful times for sure. But don’t worry – if you injure yourself in the course of your employment, the stay-at-home order imposed by the governor will not prevent you from pursuing a workers’ compensation claim, and will not prevent you from undergoing medical treatment. If you find yourself in this position, do yourself a big favor by contacting Pearson Koutcher Law and hiring us to represent you in your workers’ comp. claim.