Can volunteer firefighters get workers’ compensation in Pennsylvania?
When volunteer firefighters are injured in the line of duty in Pennsylvania, they are potentially entitled to workers’ compensation benefits under Section 601 (a)(1) of the Workers’ Compensation Act, 77 P.S. § 1031 (a)(1), even though they are volunteering without pay:
(a) In addition to those persons included within the definition of the word “employe” as defined in section 104,1 “employe” shall also include…(1) members of volunteer fire departments or volunteer fire companies…
How much workers’ compensation is a volunteer firefighter paid?
Ordinarily, when receiving workers’ compensation benefits, an injured worker is entitled to a portion of his or her average weekly wage (averaging wages from all of his or her concurrent jobs combined). Interestingly, when a volunteer firefighter is receiving workers’ compensation and is unable to work, he or she is presumed to be earning wages equal to at least the “state-wide average weekly wage” for the purposed of calculating the amount of his or her wage-loss benefits.
This means that, whether or not a volunteer firefighter’s actual wages are equal to the state-wide average weekly wage, his or her wage-loss benefits will be paid as if he or she were earning at least the state-wide average weekly wage. As such, a volunteer firefighter will receive wage-loss benefits even if he or she is otherwise unemployed or even retired.
Should an injured volunteer firefighter hire an attorney?
If you or a loved one is a volunteer firefighter who was injured in the line of duty, you should hire a skilled Erie workers’ compensation lawyer to protect your rights. Insurance companies, unfortunately, rarely do the right thing. Our law firm offers free consultations to injured firefighters and does not charge a fee unless we obtain a recovery. With offices in both Erie and Smethport, our lawyers represent first-responders throughout Northwestern Pennsylvania. Call today to set up an in-person meeting with one of our Erie Lawyers at 814-452-6232.
Workers’ Compensation From The Injured Worker’s Perspective: Thoughts From A Claimant’s Attorney
On April 19, 2017, from 11:45 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., Attorney Matt Lager will be giving a seminar on Workers’ Compensation (for non-attorneys!) at Advanced Rehabilitation at 3347 W 12th St., Erie, PA, 16505. Advanced Rehabilitation is a premier Erie, PA Physical Therapy facility that provides state-of-the-art rehabilitation techniques and prides itself on helping injured workers recover from injuries so they can safely get back to work and return to their normal lives! Advanced Rehabilitation also provides useful services, such as Functional Capacity Evaluations, which help injured workers return to work in such a capacity that they will not re-injure themselves.
These informational seminars are free to attend, include lunch, and also serve as valuable networking luncheons to those who regularly interact with the workers’ compensation system. Past speakers have included orthopedic surgeons and nurses on a variety of topics, from back surgeries to Medicare Set Asides (MSAs).
What will be covered in this seminar?
Attorney Lager’s speaking topics are likely to include the following:
- Types of Workers’ Compensation Claims
- Medical Treatment for an Injured Worker
- Billing problems under the Workers’ Compensation Act
- How workers’ compensation interacts with the ADA
- An injured worker’s choice of medical providers
- Functional Capacity Evaluations
- Employee’s and Employer’s Rights
- Modified Duty
- How Social Security Disability interacts with Workers’ Compensation
- HIPAA and Workers’ Compensation
After the seminar, there will be an open Q & A where you will be free to ask general workers’ compensation questions (but nothing case specific!). This will be an open-ended discussion where those in attendance can get a claimant’s attorney’s perspective on the workers’ compensation system.
What if I have questions but can’t attend the seminar?
If you have any questions regarding any of the above topics, or are in injured worker looking for legal representation, call our office today for a free consultation at 814-452-6232!
How do I find a lawyer in Erie that charges no fee unless they settle my case?
When watching TV, you’ll see that many lawyers advertise No recovery, No Fee payment structures, wherein the lawyer won’t charge a fee for your personal injury case unless he or she gets you money by way of a lump-sum settlement or a verdict. During our free consultations, this is often the first question we get when meeting with a new client. Like all personal injury law firms in Erie, PA, we do not charge a fee unless we obtain a recovery for our client.
What is a contingent fee?
This sort of “no recovery no fee” arrangement is referred to as a “contingent fee,” and it is the standard practice for nearly all attorneys in Erie, PA that handle car accidents and other personal injury claims. When you see some of the heavy-advertisers focus on this structure in their commercials, don’t be fooled into thinking they’re the only ones that don’t charge hourly fees and don’t charge big retainers; they’re simply the only ones that shout about it on television. Knowing that this is standard practice for nearly all lawyers, you’re free to do your research and pick the best attorney for you without having to worry about draining your savings account.
Are contingent fees fair? Should I pay hourly instead?
Contingent no-recovery-no-fee arrangements give great power to personal injury victims who are looking for a lawyer: instead of being stuck with the cheapest option out there and operating on a shoestring budget, he or she can hire the best attorney in Erie to fight the insurance company on his or her behalf. Insurance companies hate paying out a fair value for claims and hire good lawyers to help minimize their exposure: our contingent-fee arrangements allow you to even the playing field and fight for fair compensation.
Who pays for the expenses in a lawsuit?
In addition to charging no fee unless we obtain a recovery, our firm also fronts all litigation expenses: what this means is that you don’t have to worry about coming up with thousands of dollars for expert reports, medical depositions, records, expert witnesses, et cetera. Because insurance companies spare no expense when it comes to building their case, we front the money for whatever it takes to prove the significance and extent of your injuries. Our firm doesn’t let insurance companies win by simply outspending us. We ensure things are fair.
What should I do?
If you have been injured in a car accident or have a workers’ compensation claim, don’t think that you can’t afford a good lawyer. Give our Erie, PA Lawyers a call and we’ll arrange a free consultation. If, after meeting us, you want to move forward—feel safe knowing that we don’t charge a fee unless there’s a recovery.
Many injured workers in Pennsylvania are worried that their boss will either fire them or retaliate against them for filing a workers’ compensation claim after a work injury. Although not unheard of, such an event is illegal and should not dissuade you from filing a workers’ compensation claim after getting hurt at work.
It is illegal for an employer to fire you for filing a workers’ compensation claim.
Employers propagate this notion that injured workers should “tough it out” after an injury and “keep quiet” in order to keep their insurance premiums down. This is why many workplaces have environments where employees appear to look down on their injured coworkers. This sort of environment is inappropriate and is designed to take advantage of you.
Unfortunately for injured workers, failing to report injuries or failing to make workers’ compensation claims can potentially prevent them from being compensated for their missed work or having their medical bills paid. If you fail to take appropriate steps after an injury, you could find yourself without a job, without health insurance, and with a disabling injury that prevents you from returning to work. Although it might seem frightening, you cannot let that happen. Fortunately, you don’t have to be alone in this fight. With our low percentage-based fees, anybody can afford to have a lawyer on their side.
Although it might seem counter-intuitive, after an injured worker hires a workers’ compensation lawyer, employers are typically on their best behavior. And if they aren’t, you at least have a lawyer on your side to help protect your rights.
What are your rights under Pennsylvania workers’ compensation law?
After getting hurt at work in Pennsylvania, you’re entitled to have your injury-related medical bills paid and you’re entitled to be compensated while you’re unable to work because of your injury. While it seems simple, it often isn’t. Don’t let your boss or the insurance company tell you that you aren’t entitled to workers’ compensation or pressure you into not filing. If your injury ends up more serious than you expect sometime down the road, and now you’re missing work and need a surgery you can’t afford, you very well could find yourself out of luck with nobody to help.
I want to know more.
If you have questions about the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation system or your case, please do not hesitate to give me a call. I don’t charge for consultations and, if you need to hire me, we only work on a contingent, recovery-based fee. Anybody can afford our law firm.
What should I do if I injured my neck and back in a car accident?
Injuring your neck and back in a car accident can be devastating. Although neck and back injuries are the most common injuries after a crash, they can be the hardest to prove and the hardest for which to get fair settlements from the insurance company. Your claim will be denied because it’s preexisting, because you can’t prove it’s related, or because you have “limited tort.” If you’ve injured your neck and back in a car accident, here’s how to maximize your settlement:
Make sure the paramedics and emergency room doctors know if you’re experiencing neck and back pain.
The human neck and back are fragile, so it’s no surprise that neck and back injuries are often pre-existing (to some extent) and have causes other than car accidents. That’s why, after a car wreck, if your neck and back are in pain, it’s important that you tell your doctor! If an ambulance responds to your accident, be sure to let the paramedics know your neck and back are hurting if they’re in pain—don’t assume it’s temporary! It’s common for insurance adjusters to deny claims for neck and back injuries because the pain wasn’t immediately reported to paramedics or emergency room staff!
If your neck and back don’t start hurting until a few days after the car accident, make an appointment with a doctor or a chiropractor
It’s common for neck and back pain to start several days after a collision. Unfortunately, what ends up happening is that, once the pain starts, many people don’t start treating until months later when the pain doesn’t get better on its own. If your injury ends up being more serious than the sprain/strain you thought it was, the insurance company will say that this “treatment gap” indicates you must have hurt your neck and back somewhere else—not in the car accident! Without any doctor having seen you for months, it’s almost impossible to prove you actually hurt your neck and back in the accident. If your neck and back start hurting a few days later, make an appointment with your family doctor or chiropractor to get things looked at. In Pennsylvania, your car insurance is required to pay for medical treatment related to the accident; most people have at least $5,000.00 in medical coverage for accident related treatment (which includes chiropractors!).
How do I make the insurance company pay fair settlement value for my neck and back injury?
How to get the insurance company to pay you a fair settlement for your neck and back injury is a simple answer: get a lawyer. Because you do not have the ability to file a lawsuit and work your case up properly, the insurance adjuster will not pay you fair value for your neck and back injury. They know that, whatever they offer, you have no choice but to take it. Call our Erie, PA car accident lawyers for a free consultation; if we don’t think we can get you a better offer and more than pay for ourselves, we’ll let you know.
How do I file a Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Claim?
As workers’ compensation lawyers, injured workers frequently ask us “how do I file a workers’ compensation claim?” Normally, the reason they’re asking is because either their employer failed to report the injury to their insurance company or because the insurance company denied their claim, asserting that the injury wasn’t “work related.” If this happened to you, you need a lawyer.
You need a lawyer to help file your workers’ compensation claim.
It’s important to realize that “making a workers’ compensation claim” isn’t as simple as, for example, reporting a fallen branch on your roof to your homeowner’s insurance carrier. Making a workers’ compensation claim is more similar to litigating a personal injury claim in real court, as it involves multiple hearings, cross-examination of witnesses, and medical depositions. This is neither cheap nor simple and it is not something you should try to do without an experienced lawyer.
When I get involved in a situation where a claim needs to be filed, I file what’s called a “Claim Petition” with the Pennsylvania Bureau of Workers’ Compensation. This is just the beginning of the process. Soon thereafter, I am required to pay for and submit expert narrative reports, medical records, and conduct depositions of the treating doctors. This is both time consuming and expensive. It is not unusual to spend $4,000.00 litigating a workers’ compensation claim petition from start to finish.
We can help file your workers’ compensation claim.
When our office represents an injured worker, we work on a contingent basis and we pay all litigation expenses. We know that, when you’re out of work, you can’t afford to pay a lawyer’s retainer or be expected to spend $3,000.00 on a medical deposition. Importantly, in workers’ compensation claims, we never charge these expenses to our clients—we either get paid back by the employer or we don’t get paid back at all. We take the risk so you don’t have to.
If you’re wondering how to file a workers’ compensation claim in Erie, PA, Bradford, Smethport, or in Northwestern Pennsylvania, we encourage you to contact our office for a free consultation. If we can’t help you, we can at least point you in the right direction.
You are entitled to compensation for aggravations to your pre-existing conditions
Pre-existing conditions are the most common excuses given for insurance claim denials. Whenever you make a claim for injuries after an auto accident, a slip-and-fall, or a workers’ compensation injury, the first thing an adjuster will do is request an authorization to get your medical records. What the adjuster doesn’t tell you is that he or she will use this authorization to obtain years of family doctor records to go on a “fishing expedition” for pre-existing conditions. This is just one reason that you should never sign anything without talking to a lawyer first—the insurance company isn’t entitled to all of your records! Even though the new injury made your pre-existing condition worse, the insurance company will then deny your claim as pre-existing.
Pre-Existing Conditions are Not a Valid Reason to Deny Your Insurance Claim
In Pennsylvania, in both personal injury cases and workers’ compensation cases, the insurance company is liable for aggravations to your pre-existing conditions! Don’t let them tell you otherwise. Regardless of any old injuries, if your injury was made worse—you’re entitled to compensation for the worsening.
Can I win my case if I have a pre-existing bad back?
Don’t be fooled: most people injured in car accidents or hurt at work have pre-existing conditions. The fact of the matter is that some people are more susceptible to certain types of injuries—particularly back injuries. It might be because of genetics or it might be because you work a heavy duty job that takes a toll on your back. Fortunately, Pennsylvania Courts have long recognized the “eggshell skull” doctrine, which allows compensation for injuries regardless of how predisposed a person might have been. After all, if not for this injury, your problem wouldn’t be so bad or wouldn’t have occurred at all.
What should I do if I have a pre-existing condition and was hurt in an accident?
Although Pennsylvania law allows compensation for aggravations of pre-existing conditions, the insurance company will still use it as a defense. That’s why it’s so important to hire a lawyer as early as possible—before the insurance company gets all the ammunition they need to defend against your case. Our firm has successfully represented a number of individuals whose claims were denied because of their pre-existing conditions. Call our Erie, PA lawyers today for a free consultation and case review and we’ll let you know if we can help.
The Dangers of Pokémon Go and Distracted Driving
Pokémon Go is an “augmented reality” app that allows iPhone and Android users to walk around the real world, looking through the screens of their phones, in search of Pokémon—tiny monsters that can be caught and trained to fight other Pokémon for their trainer’s own amusement…and glory. Once you get past the dogfighting undertones and realize it’s all a game, there are a number of real-world dangers this app presents. “Pokémon Go” Fever is sweeping the nation, much like the California Gold Rush of the 1800s, and it’s only a matter of time before a budding Pokémaster steps into traffic while trying to catch Pikachu.
In their journey to be the very best—like no one ever was—there are reports of Pokémon Go players trying to catch Pokémon on their phones while driving their cars. This form of distracted driving is perhaps more dangerous than texting while driving, as it requires a user to actively use precision movements in an attempt to capture the rascally, anthropomorphized creatures. To complicate things further, it is unclear whether or not Pennsylvania’s no-texting-while-driving law would prohibit a user from catching Pokémon while driving, although common sense certainly would.
Does Pokémon Go encourage users to drive while playing?
Even more dangerous is, perhaps, the manner in which Pokémon Go incentivizes its users to play while driving their cars. To become aware of a Pokémon’s presence in a given area, the app needs to be open and running on the user’s device while passing through that region. The game then rewards players for traveling across the land—searching far and wide—while running the app, as it presents the user with more opportunities to catch the elusive creatures. It stands to reason that playing while driving would present an aspiring Pokémaster with the ability to surpass his or her pedestrian friends’ attempts to catch ‘em all, as those friends are limited by their inferior speed and inability to search a large geographic region in a short period of time. It seems that much of this danger could be prevented by Pokémon Go’s creators implementing a limitation that prevents its users from interacting with Pokémon or PokeStops while traveling above the speed of a swift jog. While such a feature would prevent kids from playing in the back seats of their parents’ cars, it could also save lives.
In all seriousness, we truly hope that, in light of this craze, that Pokémon Go players exercise extreme caution and good judgment in their hunt. While it’s great to get outside and explore new places, particularly in the beautiful Erie, PA region during the summer, watch where you’re going and don’t attempt to catch Pokémon while driving. All it takes is a split second of distraction to ruin somebody’s life forever. The last place you want to be is in court, on the stand, telling a jury that you mistakenly killed an innocent person because you had to catch ‘em all.
And to all the Pokémon players we’ve seen congregating in front of the church across the street from our office: we hear there’s a whole bunch a few blocks over in Perry Square. In addition to Pokémon-oriented litigation, our law firm handles Pennsylvania auto accident cases throughout the state. If you or a loved one has been injured in a car accident, call our office today for a free consultation.
Update: Pennsylvania State Police Post Bulletin Warning Players of Pokemon-related armed robbery
On July 13, 2016, the Pennsylvania State Police posted a Community Awareness Bulletin warning Pokémon players of armed robbers using the “lure” feature, meant to attract Pokémon, to attract unwitting players of Pokemon Go to secluded areas such that they could be robbed at gunpoint. Eleven players were allegedly robbed at gunpoint in St. Louis, Missouri, and local police are worried about similar attacks.
What should I do after a motorcycle accident?
With the snow melted away and summer upon us, motorcycle season has finally begun! Now is the time to finish your winter upgrades, dust off that old café racer, and get ready for Erie’s annual Roar on the Shore, where more than 100,000 bikers and enthusiasts are expected to gather around this lakeside city for one of the nation’s biggest motorcycle events and fundraisers!
Motorcycling is, of course, not without its risks. Last year, in Pennsylvania, according to the Department of Transportation, there were 3,411 motorcycle crashes in which 179 riders were killed. If you’re new to riding and looking to get licensed, we encourage you to do so through the free Pennsylvania Motorcycle Safety Program (PAMSP), which provides residents with free lessons on how to ride safely and skillfully on motorcycles provided by the state (so you don’t have to worry about dropping yours when learning!). The best part is that at the end of this course, you ride away with your license.
Do you already ride? PAMSP also provides free advanced courses for seasoned riders looking to learn advanced tips and maneuvers. Check with your insurance agent—you might even get a discount for attending these free courses. For more information and to find a location near you, visit www.PAMSP.com.
If you do find yourself in a motorcycle accident, there are a few key differences between motorcycle accidents and car accidents of which you should be aware. In Pennsylvania, after a car accident, your insurance company is required to pay for the first $5,000 of your medical treatment (at the minimum—you can opt for more). With motorcycle accidents, this unfortunately is not the case. You and your health insurance company are stuck footing the bills and co-pays.
The biggest difference is, in a car accident, if you elected “limited tort” coverage to get cheaper automobile insurance (which you should never do), you cannot recover for pain and suffering unless you fall under an exception. In a motorcycle accident, this is not the case: injured motorcyclists are entitled to recover for pain and suffering regardless of their “limited tort” election.
If you do get into a motorcycle accident, here are some important tips you should keep in mind:
- Save your receipts and medical bills;
- Take pictures of your bike and your injuries;
- Document your lost wages;
- Contact an experienced motorcycle accident attorney immediately;
- Do not talk to any insurance companies first.
The Law firm of Bernard Stuczynski & Barnett has successfully represented injured motorcyclists for more than 35 years. We may be able to recover your lost wages, out-of-pocket medical expenses, and even get you something for pain and suffering. If you, a friend, or a relative has been involved in a motorcycle accident, or if you have any questions, we encourage you to give us a call for a free consultation!
Is the insurance company offering me a fair settlement?
As experienced personal injury lawyers in Pennsylvania, we get calls from injury victims every day asking “is the insurance company offering me a fair settlement?” Although it happens once in a blue moon, the answer is usually “no.” Insurance adjusters are highly skilled at negotiating claims and convincing you that your case is worth less than its true value. Further, without an attorney, the insurance company has all the leverage. They know that you, without a lawyer, do not have any power to force the insurer to pay more than they’re offering by filing a lawsuit. Here are some things to watch out for in your negotiations and signs the insurance company is trying to take advantage of the fact that you don’t have a lawyer.
Four signs the Insurance Company is trying to take advantage of you:
Telling you that you don’t need an attorney
Insurance adjusters frequently tell people, “You don’t need an attorney; I’m offering you a fair value and attorney will simply take a third of whatever you get.” Although the adjuster might seem friendly and act like they have your best interest at heart, don’t let them fool you. The insurance company makes more money by paying you less money; it’s as simple as that. Why would you take advice from the person negotiating against you?
The fact of the matter is, a skilled personal injury attorney typically pays for himself in establishing the true value of your case and getting you paid what you deserve. The insurance adjuster doesn’t want you to retain an attorney because it saves them money.
It never hurts to at least sit down for a free consultation. Although rare, I have personally told people during a free consultation that the insurance company’s offer is reasonable and that it doesn’t make sense to hire me—it just doesn’t happen often. I’m always happy to sit down with people to figure out what’s best for them. If someone tells you that you shouldn’t speak to a lawyer, red flag should go up in your head that they’re trying to take advantage of the fact you haven’t retained counsel.
Making quick settlement offers within weeks or months of the accident
Very few cases are ready to settle within weeks or a few months from the accident. As a practical matter, a case should almost never settle before the full extent of your injuries is known. After a bad accident, it’s common for insurance adjusters to call you with quick, easy settlement offers, hoping to settle your case for pennies on the dollar. They want to settle before you’re diagnosed with something more serious that entitles you to more money.
Unfortunately, it is more common than you’d expect for serious injuries to go undiagnosed for months or even years after an accident. That “crick” in your neck could be a herniated disc requiring a fusion and discectomy and could be the difference between a missed week of work and a lifetime of disability with crushing medical expenses. Our office can help show you how to make the insurance company pay for your medical treatment so you can have a specialist figure out whether or not that pain is something serious. Don’t let the adjuster make your medical decisions.
Even though you might be losing wages and need money now, there are always more options. Don’t make the mistake of settling too soon. If something seems too easy or sounds too good to be true—it probably is. Our lawyers will make sure you don’t settle your case before you’re ready.
Telling you that you aren’t entitled to pain and suffering because of “limited tort” car insurance.
If you have “limited tort” car insurance, the insurance adjuster will almost certainly try to tell you that you aren’t entitled to money for your “pain and suffering.” What the insurance company won’t tell you is that there are a number of exceptions to limited tort. Although the exceptions are narrow and difficult to meet, an experienced personal injury attorney knows how to build your case and prove that you’re an exception to limited tort.
Moreover, there are certain things your own insurance company needs to do after you elect “limited tort” in order to restrict your rights. We know how to order the records to see if you truly even picked limited tort at all.
If you have limited tort, the insurance company is going to underpay you on your claim. You need an attorney to help you prove you’re the exception.
Asking you to sign authorizations for your personal medical records
Never sign anything without having a lawyer look it over. While it’s true that you give up some privacy rights when you make a claim, you don’t give up all your privacy rights. The insurance company simply isn’t entitled to blank authorizations to get all the records they want. They’re only entitled to relevant records. The adjuster is looking to get all your medical records from your past in order to look for that one time you complained of back pain in order to say that all your problems are preexisting conditions. In court, we call this sort of request a “fishing expedition.” Regardless, we can prove that the insurance company is liable for aggravations of preexisting conditions anyway. Don’t let them tell you otherwise.
When you hire our firm, we order and front all costs for obtaining your medical records ourselves so we can pull out things that are irrelevant and private. The insurance company doesn’t get to know about that weird bump or whether or not you’re pregnant—they get records on your injury.
Do I need a lawyer?
While this list could go on and on, those are four big signs that that the insurance company is trying to take advantage of you. When it comes to negotiating a claim with an insurance adjuster, the old maxim remains true: If you have to ask whether or not you should get a lawyer, you should probably get a lawyer. If you’re still not sure, call my office for a free consultation. I’ll show you what my firm and I can do for you. And if you want to hire us, remember that we don’t charge a fee unless we get you a financial recovery.