Because Pennsylvania is home to one of the largest and most diversified economies in the United States, workers’ compensation is a big topic in Lancaster, and all of our state. From construction and manufacturing jobs, to employment in the healthcare, service and transportation industries, Pennsylvanians work hard every day. With greater economic opportunity and job growth, however, comes an inevitable increase in workplace accidents and injuries.
Thousands of Central Pennsylvanians suffer work-related injuries every year. Claims for wage loss and medical benefits emanating from these injuries are governed by the laws and procedures of Pennsylvania’s workers’ compensation system. Despite these rules and regulations, though, a lot of confusion and uncertainty can arise, particularly for injured workers who are unfamiliar with the system. FOX43’s morning news anchor Amy Lutz talked with Attorney Anthony Georgelis about navigating the system.
Here are the Workers’ Compensation Questions Answered:
Q: What advice can you offer to employees who are hurt performing their work duties and need help navigating the workers’ compensation system?
A: In Pennsylvania, once a work injury occurs, there are a number of obligations triggered on the part of both the employee and the employer. The reality of the situation, however, is that the parties are not on equal footing, as far as knowing what, when and how to do things.
Most employers have individuals schooled in how to handle workers’ compensation claims in their best interest and for their ultimate benefit, not the injured worker’s. Conversely, most employees who sustain an injury on the job have never been through the process before, so they have no idea where to turn for advice and direction.
Consequently, the best thing a person can do if they suffer a work injury—after making a report to the employer, of course—is to immediately call an attorney. Having the right lawyer involved at the outset of a workers’ compensation claim can be critical to the financial benefits and medical treatment the injured worker needs and receives, as well as to their job security.
Q: Speaking of job security, I imagine that many employers are not thrilled when an injured worker retains legal counsel. Can an employer retaliate against an employee who suffers a work injury for involving an attorney?
A: First, I want to make clear that it is unlawful for an employer to discriminate against, penalize or terminate an employee solely for sustaining a compensable work injury or getting a lawyer. Now, in reality, does this happen? Of course it does. But, in the long run, it is highly advantageous for an injured worker to have a good attorney involved at the beginning of their claim, not only to keep an eye on the employer, but to provide valuable advice and guidance from the get-go. Many times, whether or not a workers’ compensation claim will be successful can hinge on several key decisions made early in the process.
Second, depending upon how a claim is postured, workers’ compensation benefits can survive an employee’s job ending with the employer. In other words, in many cases, with the proper legal counseling and guidance, even if an injured worker’s employment is ultimately terminated, they still will have right to pursue and receive benefits through the system.
Last, employers have significantly more resources at their disposal than injured workers do—like a human resources department, the backing of a workers’ compensation insurance company, access to attorneys, investigators and nurse case managers and a lot more money than the average employee. Injured workers need legal support early in the process, to help level the playing field. Because, again, the moves they make during the infancy of their claim can be critical to the outcome.
At my practice, in order to be sensitive to this issue, we meet privately and on a confidential basis with injured workers, so that they can feel safe and secure in sharing the details of their claims. We then can answer every question and address every concern they have and make recommendations about how to best proceed. This allows the injured worker to make a fully informed decision about if, when and how to get us involved.
Q: Having legal advice readily available when trying to deal with a work injury, and everything that comes with it, seems like it would be a luxury for an employee who sustains an injury on the job. But, isn’t it difficult for someone who is hurt and already losing wages to have to worry about paying a lawyer, too?
A: That’s an excellent question, and the answer is quite simple. We never charge people for consultations and evaluations of their claims. We’ll spend as much time as someone needs answering their questions and giving them advice, with no fee and no obligation. This means that they have nothing to lose, and everything to gain, by giving us a call.
To see the full interview on FOX43 Morning News, click here. And remember, if you’re hurt on the job, Call Georgelis First at 1-800-HURT-NOW. There’s never a fee until we get compensation for you!