In theory, a workers’ compensation insurance carrier can be required to pay part of, or even the entire, cost of counsel fees owed to the attorney for the injured worker. This is to be awarded any time the insurance carrier lacks a “reasonable basis” to file or defend a litigation. In practice, this is rarely awarded (though, to be candid, we did just receive such an award last week). The costs of litigation incurred by the attorney for the injured worker are to be awarded whenever the injured worker is successful in litigation “in whole or in part.” Recently, the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania had to address the process for the award of attorney fees and litigation costs.
In Byfield v. Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board (Philadelphia Housing Authority), the employee injured his spine and right wrist. The injury was accepted by Notice of Compensation Payable (NCP) as cervical, thoracic and lumbar strain and sprain and contusion of the right wrist. Eventually, the injured worker returned to light duty work.
Despite the fact that the injured worker had actually returned to work, at the same earnings as before the injury, in its infinite wisdom, the workers’ compensation insurance carrier filed a Petition for Suspension, alleging the injured worker refused reasonable and necessary medical treatment, in the form of facet injections. This concept of a “forfeiture petition” has been addressed before on this blog.