Books have been written about this perplexing subject: Is there life after 50? We’re here to tell you about another perplexing subject – life after your workers’ compensation PA case. Your case is over when the Workers’ Compensation Judge stops your workers’ comp benefits, or you enter into a settlement of your claim. So what happens next? Here are some things to consider when you put your workers’ comp. case in the rear-view mirror.
Returning to your Former Employer – If you settle your workers’ comp PA case and the insurance company pays you a lump sum, it is very unlikely that you will be able to return to work for the employer that you were employed by when you injured yourself. Most employers and insurance companies require that injured workers resign in writing from their employment and agree not to reapply. It may sound harsh, but if an insurance company pays a chunk of money, it does not want the person going back to work for the same employer and sustaining another injury.
Yes, this requirement could be waived if you have a good, long-term relationship with your employer and were only out of work for a short period of time. For example, let’s say you went out of work for three months due to a minor injury and then returned to your job. Your employer and the insurance company may be willing to settle your workers’ comp PA case but because you are a valued employee, may allow you to maintain your job.
Applying for a Job with Another Employer – When your workers’ compensation PA case is behind you, unless you sustained serious, debilitating injuries, you will probably be returning to the work force. This can be challenging, especially if you were out of work for an extended period of time. A prospective employer may inquire in an interview about the gap in your employment. (i.e., “Why have you not worked for three years?”) It is best for you to be forthright and explain that you injured yourself at work, had a workers’ comp. claim, but it’s over now and you are capable of performing the job for which you have applied. An employer should not hold it against you that you were involved in a workers’ comp. case – obviously it’s not your fault that you got hurt on the job and were unable to work.
If the Workers’ Compensation Judge finds that you fully recovered from your work injuries, or you entered into a full settlement signing off on both the lost wages and medical parts of your claim, the workers’ comp. insurance company will no longer have to pay for any of your medical treatment. Therefore, if you still need to see doctors for your work injuries, you will either have to pay out-of-pocket or submit the bills to other health insurance – either yours or your spouse’s if you are covered. Will this insurance company pay for the treatment? If the Judge found you fully recovered, the insurance company will not have a basis to deny paying for your treatment, because legally – per the Judge’s decision – the treatment would not be related to your work injuries since you have recovered.
Let’s look at a couple scenarios under the hypothetical that you settled your case. Suppose you sustained a back injury which the insurance company accepted. If you later settle your case and then undergo treatment to your back, an insurance company might deny paying for it, taking the position that you had workers’ comp. insurance for your injury but voluntarily relinquished it when you settled your case. On the other hand, if your claim was denied at the outset by workers’ comp., and then a settlement is reached down the road, language can be provided in your settlement agreement which specifies that none of your injuries are being formally accepted; the settlement is entered into to resolve a disputed claim. Under these circumstances, an insurance company should pay for your medical treatment because your injuries have not been determined to be work-related.
Suppose you settle your workers’ compensation PA case, but you don’t think you will be able to hold a full-time job in the future. The money from your workers’ comp. settlement almost certainly will not last you the rest of your life so you will need some form of steady income. Applying for Social Security disability benefits is an option for you. With your workers’ comp. case, only your work-related injuries are considered, but with a Social Security disability claim, all of your medical conditions are taken into account. If you injured your neck and back at work but also suffer from asthma and high blood pressure, everything will be looked at by Social Security. You will have to establish that you are unable to perform, not only your regular work, but all “substantial gainful activity,” which according to Social Security regulations is defined as the ability to earn $1,470 per month. If you can only do a part-time job which pays $12 an hour, your wages would be under the threshold, and you should qualify for Social Security disability benefits. The older you are — especially if you have turned 50 — the better chance you have of being awarded benefits.
So that’s a quick overview of what to expect after your workers’ compensation PA case ends. The best way to get a favorable result in your case is to hire Pearson Koutcher Law. Our firm is comprised exclusively of experienced, highly competent lawyers who specialize in workers’ compensation. And if you need to apply for Social Security disability benefits, we will send you right over to American Disability Alliance, which has expertise in handling Social Security cases. Please call Pearson Koutcher Law for a free, comprehensive consultation.