When you are injured at work, you may be eligible to collect workers’ compensation benefits. These benefits help pay for your medical expenses and compensate for your lost wages. Most workers only receive workers’ compensation for a short time while they recover, then return to their jobs when they are able. Yet, what happens if a workplace injury leaves you seriously injured, and you cannot go back to the job you once had?
In Pennsylvania, the Workers’ Compensation Act governs how benefits are paid out and for how long. There are medical benefits, which help you pay your bills, and wage loss benefits, which help you live from day to day. Because Pennsylvania does not cap medical benefits, you can receive them for as long as you need for medical treatment. However, Pennsylvania does cap your wage loss benefits. Although it is possible for an injured worker to receive benefits for life, it is not that common.
Determining How Long You Can Receive Compensation
How long you can collect compensation depends on your illness or injury classification. An approved medical doctor must evaluate your condition and verify your disability. In Pennsylvania, there are four categories of injury classification:
- Temporary Total Disability (TTD): If you are classified as TTD, the expectation is that you will be able to come back to work at some point. TTD allows you to collect workers’ compensation benefits for your lost wages for up to 90 days.
- Permanent Total Disability: If your illness or injury is so severe that you cannot return work, you may be classified as permanently and totally disabled. After a period of 104 weeks, your employer’s insurance company has the right to require an independent medical examination (IME) to re-evaluate your condition. If the IME finds that you are less than 35 percent impaired, your status may be changed to Partial Disability. This change may affect the amount of benefits you receive.
- Permanent Partial Disability: This allows you to collect benefits for a maximum of 500 weeks. However, if an IME determines during that time that your impairment is 35 percent or more, you have the right to petition for total disability status.
- Specific loss benefits: If you are severely disfigured, or if you lose a limb or body part because of a workplace injury, you can collect workers’ compensation benefits. Most likely, you will be awarded a one-time award based on your injury type.
- Death benefits for survivors: Surviving spouses and dependent children may be eligible to receive weekly wage loss benefits in addition to a lump sum to defray burial expenses.
Weekly wage loss benefits are typically two-thirds of your average weekly wage, subject to minimums and maximums. As of January 1, 2020, the weekly maximum compensation in Pennsylvania is $1,081.
One-time awards for specific losses are calculated by multiplying the weekly wage benefit by a given number of weeks, according to injury severity. For example, the amount paid for the loss of an eye is two-thirds of the worker’s previous wages multiplied by 275 weeks. For the loss of a hand, the amount paid is two-thirds of the worker’s previous wages multiplied by 335 weeks.
Duration of Wage Loss Benefits in Pennsylvania
You will not receive wage loss benefits for the first seven days of missed work. However, if you are out of work for more than 14 days and you reported your injury promptly to your employer, you may be eligible to receive benefits retroactively for that initial seven-day period.
A Job Offer May Halt Your Benefits
If your employer can provide evidence that you have been offered a job that is within a reasonable commuting distance and is within your medical restrictions, your employer has the right to petition a workers’ compensation judge to halt or reduce your wage loss benefits. The judge will decide based on medical evidence that you and your employer provide, as well as your opinion and the findings of a vocational expert regarding your ability to do the job.
Do I Need a Lawyer to Retain my Workers’ Compensation Benefits?
Technically, you do not need a lawyer if your employer tries to halt or reduce your benefits. However, the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry provides the following guidance:
You should be aware that workers’ compensation litigation is complex, and your employer or your employers’ insurance carrier will be represented by an experienced attorney.
If you choose to file for workers’ compensation on your own, keep in mind it is possible that your claim may be denied if your employer’s insurance company decides that your injury was not work-related or not serious enough to prevent you from working. After you receive benefits, there may be a chance that your benefits will be reduced later or terminated entirely.
Philadelphia Workers’ Compensation Attorneys at Larry Pitt & Associates, P.C. Help Injured Workers Obtain the Benefits They Need
Our Philadelphia workers’ compensation attorneys can help you file a claim and obtain the money you need if you are out of work due to a work-related illness or injury. At Larry Pitt & Associates, P.C., we understand the concerns you may have about your future and we will strive vigorously to obtain the financial relief and support you deserve. To schedule a free consultation, fill out our online form or call us at 888-PITT-LAW.
Located in Philadelphia, Bensalem, Lansdowne, and Reading, we represent injured workers in Berks County, Bucks County, Chester County, Delaware County, Montgomery County, Philadelphia County, and throughout Pennsylvania, including those in the communities of Abington, Ambler, Ardmore, Bala Cynwyd, Bensalem, Clifton Heights, Crum Lynne, Darby, Downingtown, Doylestown, Drexel Hill, Essington, Folcroft, Glenolden, Haverford, Havertown, Holmes, Kutztown, Lansdowne, Media, Merion Station, Morton, Narberth, Norristown, Norwood, Philadelphia, Prospect Park, Quakertown, Reading, Roxborough, Sharon Hill, Upper Darby, West Chester, and Wynnewood.