If you have been injured at work and are collecting Pennsylvania workers’ compensation benefits, at some point the insurance company will have you undergo an independent medical examination (also known as an IME) with a doctor of its choice. If the doctor concludes that you have not fully recovered from your work injuries and cannot return to your regular job, and you are limited to doing light-duty work, you may think that you are in the clear and your benefits are not in jeopardy. Unfortunately, that’s not necessarily the case. The insurance company may hire a vocational consultant to conduct a labor market survey. We’re sure that you have two questions: (1) What is a vocational consultant? and (2) What is a labor market survey? Our workers’ compensation PA lawyers are here to tell you.
A vocational consultant is a person who, based on their education and experience, has expertise regarding the job market that attempts to find suitable jobs for people, some of whom have physical limitations due to a work injury.
The insurance company may hire a vocational person to interview you about your background – your education, your employment history, and your injuries and how they limit your ability to function. These interviews are usually done by video; your lawyer can participate in the interview. If your workers’ compensation PA case has been smooth sailing so far, and you have not had to hire a Pennsylvania workers’ comp lawyer, as soon as you receive a notice scheduling you for a vocational interview, you should contact Pearson Koutcher Law.
After interviewing you, the vocational consultant will try to identify jobs in your geographic area that fit within the restrictions which the IME doctor imposed on you. This is called a labor market survey. If the doctor releases you to full-time, light-duty work with no lifting more than 15 pounds and occasional bending, the vocational consultant will attempt to locate jobs within these parameters.
The vocational expert also will try to find jobs that are vocationally suitable for you, which means that you have the skills to perform the jobs based on your education and work experience. If a certain job requires typing of up to 90 words per minute, and you have never typed or used a computer, that position is not going to be vocationally suitable for you.
Here’s a hypothetical to show you. Suppose at the time of your injury, you were earning $900 per week from your employer. This would translate to $600 (tax-free) in weekly workers’ compensation benefits. Let’s say that the vocational person locates six jobs in the labor market survey, which average paying $600 per week. The lawyer for the insurance company will file a petition to modify your benefits, alleging that while your injury prevents you from earning the $900 per week that you were making when doing your regular job, you have the ability to do light-duty work and, based on the wages of the six jobs, you have an earning power of $600 per week. Therefore, the lawyer will contend that your workers’ comp. benefits should be reduced to 2/3 of the difference between $900 and $600, which is $200. That’s a big drop from $600 so it’s important that you have a lawyer to fight this petition hard.
The best way is to argue that, as a result of your work injuries, you are not able to perform the light-duty jobs found by the vocational consultant. If your treating doctor reviews the job descriptions of the positions and is of the opinion that they are beyond your physical capabilities, your workers’ compensation pa lawyer can counter the opinions of the insurance company’s doctor and testify that you are not ready to return to work, even in a light-duty capacity.
Furthermore, you will have the opportunity to testify before the Workers’ Compensation Judge. Most likely, this will be by video, although it’s possible that the hearing will be held live in the Judge’s courtroom. You will be able to explain to the Judge how your symptoms from your injuries prevent you from working. You can emphasize that simple, everyday activities – such as fixing meals and going up stairs – are difficult for you, and therefore performing a full-time job would be out of the question. If you are taking medications prescribed by your doctor, you can describe that while they help take the edge off your pain, they also cause you drowsiness which requires you to lie down during the day.
The judge will ultimately make a decision on whether to accept as credible your testimony and the testimony of your doctor that you are unable to perform the jobs contained in the labor market survey, or the testimony of the IME doctor and vocational consultant that the jobs are within your physical capabilities and are vocationally suitable for you.
Whether or not the insurance company hires a vocational consultant to interview you and then conducts a labor market survey, you need a top workers’ compensation PA lawyer on your side to go head-to-head with the insurance company and its lawyer. At Pearson Koutcher Law, workers’ compensation is all we do, 100% of the time. Each of our lawyers has more than 25 years’ experience representing injured workers. If you hire Pearson Kearson, one of our experienced, highly skilled lawyers will zealously represent you in your case. Please call today for a free, comprehensive consultation.