Erie, PA Workers’ Compensation Lawyers
The Erie, PA Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at Bernard Stuczynski Barnett & Lager have been representing injured workers since 1985. Because we believe that every injured worker should have equal access to a good attorney, we do not charge a fee unless we get you a recovery and we always offer free consultations, even if you’re currently receiving workers’ compensation benefits and just have a few questions.
In Pennsylvania, after an employee sustains a work injury, that employee is normally entitled to have his or her medical costs paid by the workers’ compensation insurance company. In many instances, the injured worker is also entitled to receive compensation for a portion of his or her lost wages. Unfortunately, it’s often necessary to hire a workers’ compensation lawyer to get the benefits to which you’re entitled. You might have heard people call it “workman’s comp” or “workers’ comp,” but it all means the same thing—and it’s important to know your workers’ compensation rights.
Do’s and Don’ts after a Work Injury:
- Assess yourself for injuries and go to the Emergency Room if necessary.
- Report your injury to your supervisor and file an incident report.
- Get the medical treatment you need and see a specialist if necessary.
- Consult your employer’s “Panel” of physicians to see which specialists are available.
- Review your pay-stubs and make sure the workers’ comp insurance company is paying you your fair rate.
- Contact a lawyer for a Free Consultation
- Don’t sign anything, including over-broad medical authorizations and “Supplemental Agreements.”
- Don’t allow a Nurse Case Manager to attend your medical appointments.
- Don’t try to “stick it out for the rest of your shift” if you’re in pain.
- Don’t give the insurance company any recorded statements.
- Don’t let your boss “handle it outside insurance.”
- Don’t try to represent yourself at a Workers’ Compensation hearing.
- Don’t disclose preexisting conditions without first speaking with a lawyer.
- Don’t agree to settle your case without at least a free consultation with a workers’ compensation lawyer.
Frequently Asked Questions about Workers’ Compensation
What should I do if I’m hurt at work in Erie Pennsylvania?
The first thing you need to do after being hurt at work is to inform a supervisor and get medical attention. In Pennsylvania, failure to report a work injury within 120 days of discovering the injury can potentially prevent you from receiving workers’ compensation benefits. You also need to receive medical treatment immediately to help document your injuries. Trying to “tough it out” or “wait and see if the pain goes away on its own” will almost certainly backfire.
Do I need a Workers’ Compensation lawyer if I’m already receiving workers’ compensation benefits?
Many injured workers make the mistake of thinking they don’t need a lawyer because they’re receiving wage loss benefits and medical benefits via a “Notice of Compensation Payable.” Although comforting for a while, the insurance company will eventually try to stop your workers’ compensation benefits. And by the time they start that process, it might already be too late.
Our Erie, PA lawyers represent workers’ compensation clients on a contingent basis: our firm only gets paid if we have to defend your benefits in court or if we help you negotiate a lump-sum settlement. If you are actively receiving benefits and retain our firm, our services are free unless we actually have to help you. It doesn’t cost you a dime more to hire us the day you’re injured than it does the day before your hearing where the insurance company is trying to kick you off workers’ compensation. The benefit of retaining us immediately is that we can make sure your claim is handled properly from day one. This allows us to get you substantially better results. And if you get better and go back to work without any legal problems, you won’t have to pay us anything.
When should I hire an Erie workers’ compensation lawyer?
Many injured workers struggle with the decision as to when they should hire a lawyer. Some even wonder if they should hire a workers’ compensation lawyer at all, worrying that getting a lawyer involved might hurt their employment. Getting a lawyer involved might seem like a complex decision, but it really isn’t. Worrying instead of taking action can cost you thousands when time is of the essence For more information, please see our article on when to hire a workers’ compensation lawyer: When should I hire an attorney?
Do I need a lawyer to get wage loss benefits after a work injury?
If you’re injured at work and can’t do your job, and your employer won’t accommodate your limitations or restrictions, you very well might be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. If the insurance company hasn’t paid you yet, it’s unlikely that they will without the aid of an attorney. If you were injured on the job, we can help you receive wage loss benefits.
When do my wage loss benefits start after a Pennsylvania workers’ compensation claim?
After being injured and taken out of work in Pennsylvania, your wage loss benefits don’t start immediately. The first seven days are on you. After that, your wage loss benefits should kick in. Then, after fourteen days of being off work, you get back-paid for the first seven that you missed. If you’re off for more than a week, you almost certainly should speak with an attorney to ensure your rights are being protected. If you don’t need our services, it won’t cost you anything to check.
Who pays my medical bills after a work injury in Pennsylvania?
If you’re hurt on the job in Pennsylvania, your employer’s workers’ compensation insurance company should probably be paying your medical bills—not your own health insurance. Unfortunately, because there is no “pre-approval” of medical treatment in workers’ compensation, it’s often very difficult to get a doctor to agree to treat you without some guarantee they’ll be paid. Sometimes the insurance company will even tell the doctor they won’t pay just to prevent you from getting the treatment you need. If you require medical treatment for your work injury, you should contact a lawyer to ensure you’re getting the benefits to which you’re entitled.
What amount of wage loss benefits am I entitled to under Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Law?
Under Pennsylvania’s Workers’ Compensation Act, an injured worker isn’t entitled to 100% of their lost wages after an injury. The amount of your wage loss benefits is calculated based upon how much you typically earn: the less you make, the higher percentage of your wages you are entitled. This scale changes every year and ranges from 90% to 66.67% of your Average Weekly Wage (AWW). To find out exactly how much your weekly benefits will be, the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry publishes a chart that can be viewed on their website under Rate Schedules.
If you think you’re being underpaid, you’re probably right. In Pennsylvania, Workers’ Compensation insurance companies frequently miscalculate your wage benefits. If you’re being underpaid, our Erie, PA and Smethport, PA workers’ compensation lawyers can file a petition with the court to correct your pay and see to it you’re awarded past-due benefits for underpayments.
Can I see my own doctor for a workers’ compensation injury in Pennsylvania?
After being hurt on the job, the insurance company will tell you that you can only see their list of “panel” doctors. What they don’t tell you is that this is only true for the first ninety (90) days. And there are also a number of exceptions and ways around this. Sometimes the panel doctors are good, and sometimes they aren’t. If you contact our firm, we can help to ensure that you are able to receive expert treatment for your injuries.
Can I work with restrictions from my doctor after a workers’ compensation injury?
If you are on workers’ compensation in Pennsylvania, If your doctor is willing to release you to work with restrictions, it is up to your employer whether or not to accommodate those restrictions. However, if they won’t give you modified duty, or if they cut back on your hours because of your injury, you’re possibly still entitled to some workers’ compensation. It is common for insurance companies to try to get you back to work before you’re ready. When you hire our law firm, we do everything we can to ensure you only go back to work when you’re ready.
What if I can’t return to work after a work injury?
Although the workplace is much safer than it was fifty years ago, the human body is just as fragile. It is not uncommon to sustain a work injury of such a severity that you can never return to the same type of job again. This usually means the only jobs you can get with your limitations pay less. Perhaps a lot less. If you’ve been injured at work and can’t go back to your job, your and your family’s future is on the line. Let us help you ensure you receive fair compensation for your lost income.
What does it cost to hire an Erie, PA workers’ compensation lawyer?
Hiring an Erie, PA workers’ compensation attorney (or a Smethport, PA attorney) is cheaper than you probably expect. Our attorneys work on a contingency basis, which means we only get paid a small portion of what we get for you. If you’re already receiving benefits from the insurance company, our firm does not take a portion of your benefits unless we go to court to defend your benefits or if we negotiate a lump-sum settlement of your case. We even pay for all expenses in litigating your case, which can add up to thousands of dollars. If you’re unsure, it’s free to give us a call and meet with us in person. We’re happy to answer your questions and help you figure out whether or not our firm is a good fit for you and your family.
How do I settle my Pennsylvania workers’ compensation case?
If you’re thinking about settling your workers’ compensation case, read our article on how to get the most money for your case: Workers’ Compensation Settlements.
Suspension and Termination of Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Benefits
The workers’ compensation insurance company is trying to close my claim and stop my benefits. What are my Workers’ Comp Rights?
If the insurance company is trying to stop your benefits and you don’t already have a lawyer, you’ve waited longer than advisable and should contact our Erie, PA lawyers immediately such that we can prepare your defense. This isn’t “small claims” court and you cannot do it on your own. You will need medical expert testimony, witnesses, records—the whole nine yards. Properly preparing your case for court can require thousands of dollars in expert reports, medical records, and depositions. When you hire our firm, we front all these costs and handle all the legal work.
Denied Workers’ Compensation Claims in Pennsylvania
I received a “Notice of Workers’ Compensation Denial” after I was hurt at work. Do I need an Erie, PA Workers’ Compensation Lawyer to File an Appeal?
Unfortunately, because workers’ compensation insurance companies don’t make money by paying claims they should pay, it’s common for them to wrongfully deny your claim—leaving you out of work with no income and no way to pay your bills or support your family. You’ll know your claim was denied if you receive a “Notice of Workers’ Compensation Denial.” There are many reasons they can deny your claim. Usually, the insurance company checks the box that says “The employee did not suffer a work-related injury.” The insurance company does this all the time.
The insurance company is hoping to force you back to work before you’re ready because most people don’t get a lawyer and put up a fight. If your workers’ compensation claim has been denied, call our Erie, PA Lawyers and our Smethport, PA lawyers immediately so that we can file a claim and go to court to fight for your benefits. We don’t charge a fee unless we get you the workers’ compensation benefits to which you’re entitled.
Who pays my medical bills if my workers’ compensation claim was denied?
If your claim has been denied, workers’ compensation will not pay your medical bills. Even if you have health insurance, they might even hassle you about your bills, or perhaps the co-pays are too expensive. When you retain our firm, we help you come up with a strategy to get the medical treatment you need while we fight for your case.
Erie PA Workers’ Compensation Appeals Lawyers
My workers’ compensation claim was denied. How do I appeal?
If the insurance company has denied your claim, you aren’t out of luck. When you hire our Erie, Pennsylvania based law firm, we’ll take your case before a judge and fight to force the insurance company to pay for the benefits you should have gotten from day one.
Independent Medical Examinations (IME)
If you’re receiving workers’ compensation benefits and the insurance company is sending you to an “independent medical examination,” don’t be fooled—they’re probably trying to shut your benefits off or deny you the medical treatment your doctor thinks you need.
What is an Independent Medical Examination? Despite the name, there is nothing “independent” about these workers’ compensation medical examinations. Almost always, the insurance company’s doctor will spend a few minutes with you, and then write a report saying you’re either all better or saying that your injuries are preexisting or aren’t related to your work injury.
If you’re being sent to an independent medical examination, you need to contact a local Erie, PA workers’ compensation attorney immediately to start protecting your benefits. Don’t wait until a court hearing is scheduled and you’re scrambling to get an attorney at the last minute (or, even worse, representing yourself pro se and getting steamrolled by the insurance company’s lawyer). Building a good case takes time. The earlier you get a lawyer, the better your case will be.
What do I do after I’m hurt at work?
If you’ve been hurt in at work, you need a workers’ compensation lawyer. If you’re in or around Erie, PA, call our office for a free consultation at 814-452-6232. If you’re in the Bradford, PA region, call our Smethport office at 814-887-6009. We’ll handle the rest.