Breaking down the workers’ compensation process in Pennsylvania

Whether one has been in a work routine for years or has recently adapted to a new one, the reality is that many workers in Pennsylvania are faced with risks. An occupation does not have to be inherently risky in order for an employee to suffer an injury due to an accident or an occupational illness. In fact, any work environment in Pennsylvania has the potential for an employee to suffer harm. Thus, it is imperative that when a worker suffers harm due to an injury or illness, he or she explores the process to file for workers’ compensation benefits.

Filing for workers’ compensation can seem like an overwhelming process, especially when an employee is focused on managing his or her pain and navigating issues that have presented themselves while they are currently unable to work. However, by taking the time to breakdown the process into steps, injured workers can become more comfortable with the process.

To begin, there must be a notice of injury. This means that one’s employer must be put on notice of the injury or illness within 21 days. Next, the employer is required report the injury to their insurer. If an employee files for workers’ compensation, this report is used in the process to either issue workers’ compensation benefits or deny them.

From the date of denial, an employee has three years to file a claim petition. If this is filed, the case will be assigned to a judge and a hearing will be scheduled. During the hearing, both the employee and the employer or their insurer will provide evidence. Next, the case will be scheduled for mediation unless it is determined it would be futile. This is followed by a written decision, and either party has 20 days from the date of the decision to file an appeal. The Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board then hears it. If their decision is appealed, either party could file an appeal with the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

Encountering obstacles in the application process or receiving a denial of benefits can be challenging news to take in. Nonetheless, it is not the end all. Injured employees can work through these obstacles, and even when an initial claim is denied, applicants have the right to appeal this decision. Because it can become a complex matter, it is important to not only understand the process but also the rights and options one is afforded along the way.