Where did the year go? Did it not feel like the longest year of your life? These are two of the most frequently asked questions by many. The COVID-19 pandemic has changed life drastically for so many Americans. I know my life has totally changed throughout this past year, but I can honestly say it has changed for the better.
March 16, 2020. That was the last day I was in the office before what felt like the world shutting down. But it only took a few weeks and the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Judges were back up and running virtually. It was very impressive how the workers’ compensation courts adapted so quickly! If the courts had not adjusted so fast, thousands of Pennsylvania injured workers would be left without benefits and no way of fighting to obtain those benefits owed to them.
I have been working as a paralegal in the workers’ compensation world for the injured worker since 2008. No one could have predicted this past year and the changes that would be implemented in PA workers’ compensation. Judges adapted their practices and procedures almost instantly; attorneys went remote as well as their staffs. Offices including Pearson Koutcher Law are practically running paperless because most correspondence and exchange of documents can be done via email and WCAIS, the electronic filing system used in Pennsylvania workers’ compensation cases. Hearings are being conducted by Zoom, Skype, and Microsoft Teams, but the one constant factor that remained throughout the pandemic is communication. Communication has been key to injured workers receiving their benefits and the process of litigation continuing throughout the pandemic. The same issues persist, regardless of whether we are working in the office or working remotely. Whether it be a weekly indemnity check being late due to delay in the mail or falling off automatic pay schedule and needing to contact the adjuster or medical management for the client, we were able to meet our clients’ needs without much interruption with a phone call or email. Plus, I have less distractions allowing me to focus on communicating with my clients. Clients seem to appreciate the fact that you are getting back to them in a timely fashion. Again, communication is key!
Reflecting on this past year, I am grateful and thankful. I am grateful that I have been able to continue to work from home and assist injured workers with anything that may arise and at the same time getting to spend more time with my family, most especially with my one-year-old Christopher (CJ). I have been able to see a lot of firsts from CJ, which I normally would have missed if I were working in the office and commuting an hour plus each way. I got to see CJ take his first steps, say his first words and so many more. I have seen my son’s personality take form, which has truly been a gift all while being able to work!
It is the small blessings that I am thankful for and appreciate every minute, but you realize that working remotely is not always rainbows and unicorns. I really struggled in the beginning as to how to turn off work mode and resist constantly checking my email 24/7. My husband and I had to figure out a schedule with CJ and how we were going to work and take care of our son, especially in the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic while completely quarantining just the three of us. It was challenging at first, but like many things, communication was essential to us getting a working schedule down and a system in place and now it feels like we have been working remotely for years.
With that being said, I think there are nerves associated with returning to some sort of “new normal” and getting back into the office for many. I think those concerns are expected and will only subside in time. I have been consciously trying not to compare what life was like this time last year and just look to the future and how everything has evolved. I am especially referring to how the workers’ compensation process for the injured workers has transformed and how everything remains virtual with no real sign of going back to in person court hearings. It appears to be if the process is not broken, no need to mess with it. Aside from some minor technology glitches, things seem to be operating smoothly with the workers’ compensation courts. Throughout this past year, I have tried to always see the good in the situation and look at the positives. As previously stated, I found that people are communicating better allowing for everything to continue to run smoothly. It has forced people to take the time, slow down and appreciate the little things. Overall, we’re going to emerge from this national pandemic stronger and with the life skills to take on anything thrown our way!
If you have been hurt at work, it is important that you are represented by a competent, experienced workers’ comp. lawyer. At Pearson Koutcher Law, workers’ comp. is all we do. Every one of our lawyers has at least 20 years of experience representing injured workers and will make sure that your rights are fully protected so your benefits are not cut off when they should not be. Please call us for a free, comprehensive evaluation.