Pennsylvania Court Allows Man to Collect Benefits in Jail

June 17, 2019

The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court recently ruled that a man should be allowed to collect benefits while in jail. In doing so, the court reversed an order from the Appeal Board, which previously ruled in favor of the man’s employer. To determine the amount of benefits the man should receive, his case has been remanded to the workers’ compensation judge (WCJ) for a recalculation of his average weekly wage.

Can Workers’ Comp Benefits be Suspended During Incarceration?

In Sadler v. Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board, the appellate panel disagreed with the ruling of the WCJ who first heard the case. In that case, a Philadelphia Coca-Cola Bottling Co. Inc. employee was receiving workers’ compensation benefits for injuries he sustained as a maintenance mechanic. The next year, he was charged with a crime and incarcerated for 525 days until his pretrial release at which time he pleaded guilty and was sentenced to time served.

His employer then filed a petition for suspension of benefits, citing a provision of the Workers’ Compensation Act (the Act) which states that employers are not required to pay benefits for any period during which an injured employee is incarcerated after a conviction. Coca-Cola argued that the man’s period in jail constituted incarceration after a conviction under the Act. However, the man argued that his time served due to his inability to post bail did not constitute “incarceration after conviction”, not only due to the plain language of the Act (his incarceration occurred before conviction) but also because suspending a worker’s benefits when they are unable to meet bail is an unfair application of the law that goes against its humanitarian purpose.

The Court’s Decision

Both the WCJ and the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board agreed with the employer and ruled in favor of suspending the man’s benefits. However, the Commonwealth Court sided with the worker, finding that because he was incarcerated due to an inability to make bail rather than due to a criminal conviction, he should not be barred from collecting benefits. The matter is now remanded to the WCJ for consideration of the man’s overtime and a possible recalculation of his average weekly wage.

Appealing a Workers’ Comp Decision in Pennsylvania

Under the Act, Pennsylvania workers are required to report work injuries to their employers within 120 days. Employers often try to evade responsibility and will deny claims for various reasons such as suspicion of fraud. However, workers whose claims are initially denied still have options. A WCJ’s decision may be appealed to the Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board and that decision may be appealed to the state’s Commonwealth Court. Certain filing requirements and time limits must be met; therefore, it is advisable for claimants to seek the counsel of a qualified workers’ compensation attorney in their local area.

Contact a Workers’ Comp Lawyer in Philadelphia for Help with Appealing a Denied Claim

If your claim was initially denied, contact a workers’ comp lawyer in Philadelphia at Larry Pitt & Associates, P.C. as soon as possible. We can help you file an appeal so you can receive the benefits you deserve. Our experienced attorneys can walk you through the claims process and help you with any denied claims. To discuss your case, please complete our online contact form or call us at 888-PITT-LAW for a free consultation today.

Conveniently located in PhiladelphiaBensalemLansdowne, and Reading, we represent injured workers in Berks CountyBucks CountyChester CountyDelaware CountyMontgomery CountyPhiladelphia County, and throughout Pennsylvania, including those in the communities of AbingtonAmblerArdmoreBala CynwydBensalemClifton HeightsCrum LynneDarbyDowningtownDoylestownDrexel HillEssingtonFolcroftGlenoldenHaverfordHavertownHolmesKutztownLansdowneMediaMerion StationMortonNarberthNorristownNorwoodPhiladelphiaProspect ParkQuakertownReadingRoxboroughSharon HillUpper DarbyWest Chester, and Wynnewood.