Under the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act, most employees in Pennsylvania are eligible to receive benefits after they are injured in a workplace accident. However, obtaining Workers’ Compensation benefits is not always a fast or easy process. It may be necessary for the injured worker to attend several hearings before “Workers’ Compensation” is awarded, or before suspended benefits are restored. For example, if an employer initially denies an employee’s claim, the employee may need to file a Claim Petition with the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation Claims, so that a hearing before a Workers’ Compensation judge can be scheduled.
Why was the Workers’ Compensation Hearing Requested?
The answer to this question depends on why the hearing was requested, the determinations resulting from any prior hearings, and, perhaps most critically of all, how thoroughly you have prepared for your hearing. The outcome of your hearing will hinge on how effectively you are able to present relevant and convincing evidence – which will be questioned and challenged aggressively by your employer’s attorneys.
Though you are not legally required to have a Workers’ Compensation hearing attorney, it is not in your best interests to represent yourself. The complexity of Pennsylvania’s Workers’ Compensation laws makes it extremely difficult for employees to obtain and present evidence successfully, especially when pitted against an attorney for an insurance company. Without detailed knowledge of the law, it is very easy to accidentally make small technical errors that could damage or even undo your case. You will have a far greater likelihood of achieving a favorable outcome if you are represented by an experienced Workers’ Compensation claim lawyer, like the attorneys of Lerner, Steinberg & Associates.
You have up to three years to request a hearing by filing a Claim Petition (LIBC-362) if your claim for Workers’ Compensation benefits was denied. However, the sooner you initiate this process, the sooner you may begin receiving benefits.
Once a judge has been assigned to oversee your case, a hearing should be scheduled within approximately one month, and you must be prepared to give testimony. If, however, the hearing was requested by your employer, you may not need to attend. Your employer could request a hearing if he or she wishes to decrease, suspend, or put a stop to your benefits.
The hearing process may continue for six months or longer, as both sides will need to file and respond to various “briefs” (written documents) pertaining to witnesses, medical records, and other important sources of evidence and information. Before each hearing, you will receive notification about the time, date, and venue at which you must appear. Depending on the circumstances, the Workers’ Compensation judge, or “WC” judge, may require you to undergo mediation during the process.
Be advised that, if you requested a hearing because your initial Workers’ Compensation claim was denied, you will not receive any benefits while the hearing process is underway. You will only begin to receive benefits if the judge rules against your employer and determines that benefits should be awarded to you. However, if you requested a hearing because your employer is attempting to suspend, terminate, or reduce your benefits – a process that begins with the filing of a Petition to Terminate, Modify, or Suspend benefits – you should continue receiving payments while the hearings are ongoing, pending the judge’s final determination.
According to the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation and Workplace Safety 2015 Annual Report prepared by the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation, nearly 9,200 Claim Petitions were assigned to WC judges that year. During the same period, more than 3,300 Petitions to Suspend Compensation were assigned, in addition to nearly 4,800 Petitions to Terminate Compensation Benefits.
Our Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Hearing Lawyers Can Help if Your Claim Was Denied
Obtaining Workers’ Compensation can be a major challenge, especially while you are coping with the physical, emotional, and financial impacts of a serious workplace injury. Make sure you are guided through the process by a tough, aggressive, and experienced attorney who will work hard, communicate clearly, and uphold your rights at every turn. Our Workers’ Compensation hearing attorneys can obtain crucial evidence, manage the timely preparation and filing of your legal documents, prepare you for questioning, and deal with your employer’s insurance carrier throughout the hearing process.