Left Fielder Corey Dickerson, of the Philadelphia Phillies, was just diagnosed with a broken foot.  Why is that relevant to injured workers?  Because it confirms that an injury is not always what it initially appears.  Unlike a major league baseball player, however, an injured worker is not always given the benefit of the doubt.

On September 4, 2019, Dickerson fouled a ball off his left foot.  They took x-rays that night, which were negative for a fracture.  Since he was diagnosed with just a bruise (or, the fancy word, “contusion”), Dickerson then played, in pain, in the next several games.  When the pain continued, additional testing was performed.  Only then did a CT scan reveal a fracture of the left foot.  Indeed, Dickerson may now require surgery.

Too often in PA workers’ compensation cases, we see an insurance carrier grab on to an initial negative test like a dog with a bone.  Unlike a professional athlete, however, an injured worker can have great difficulty getting additional diagnostic testing.  With the workers’ comp insurance carrier failing to provide pre-approval, getting an MRI, CT scan or bone scan, can be problematic.

For years, we have had an office in the center of Allentown, and represented injured workers all along the Allentown-Bethlehem-Easton corridor.  We have attended workers’ compensation hearings at the Workers’ Compensation Judge office in Allentown (on Tilghman Street), as well as at the Northampton County Courthouse (where Northampton County workers’ compensation hearings are held).  Indeed, both Allentown and Bethlehem/Easton appears on our website as communities we proudly serve.  Recently, it occurred to us that we have never become members of the Northampton County Bar Association (NCBA).  We have been members of the Bucks, Lehigh and Philadelphia County Bar Associations, so it certainly seemed like a logical step for us to join the NCBA.

While other bar associations simply welcome new members by having them complete an application, the NCBA handles these things in a more dignified and traditional fashion.  Indeed, both of our attorneys (Dina Brilliant and Glenn Neiman) had to obtain sponsors, attend a quarterly NCBA meeting, and be formally approved to become members of the NCBA.  And so, at the meeting on September 12, 2019, both Ms. Brilliant and Mr. Neiman were approved as members of the NCBA.  We are proud to have been admitted into the NCBA, and we look forward to becoming further involved in the wonderful work the NCBA does in the community, as we have done with the other Bar Associations of which we are members.

We will continue striving to serve injured workers in the Allentown-Bethlehem-Easton community through our Center City Allentown office, as we do with injured workers in the Bucks, Montgomery and Philadelphia areas through our offices in Trevose and Warminster.  And, for those injured workers elsewhere in the Southeastern to Central areas of PA, we also are happy to meet clients in various other locations conveniently located throughout the region.

We have talked before on this blog about how an injured worker can go about choosing a Pennsylvania workers’ compensation attorney.  Since this is such a common question, the issue is so important, and there are so many choices, we even have a page on our website devoted to the topic.  So, this blog post is not about how to choose a workers’ comp lawyer.  Instead, this entry will talk about one of the more important jobs we, as attorneys who represent injured workers, have in the process.

The vast majority of injured workers are not familiar with the Pennsylvania workers’ compensation system.  From the outside, it can appear to be a complex and complicated arena.  Indeed, it can even be complicated for those of us who work with the system every day.  Perhaps the scariest aspect of this for the injured worker is simply the vast unknown.

We regularly participate in various injured worker message boards on the internet, providing general legal information to those who ask (we, of course, cannot provide legal advice to someone we do not represent).  Many of the questions we see, from injured workers who are already represented by an attorney, as well as those who are not, deal with the PA workers’ compensation process and how it works.

While workers in Pennsylvania are generally all covered by the PA Workers’ Compensation Act (other than certain classes, such as Federal workers, some of those in the shipping industry, and others), not all are treated equally.  There is a stark difference between “stationary” employees (who go to the same job location each day) and “travelling” employees (who do not).  But, as we see in a recent decision of the Commonwealth Court, even the additional latitude of the travelling employee is not always enough.

In Peters v. Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board (Cintas Corporation), the employee was undisputedly a “traveling” employee.  As a salesman, most of his time was spent out on the road, travelling to various accounts.  One day, after working his full day out in the field, he came back toward his house, passed the exit for his house, and continued on to a bar, where he attended what the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania termed “a celebration with coworkers.”  When he went home, after the “celebration,” he was injured in a car accident.

The employee (the “Claimant”) filed a Claim Petition, alleging his injury took place while in the scope and course of his employment.  After litigating before the Workers’ Compensation Judge (WCJ), the Claim Petition was denied.  The WCJ found that Claimant was not in the scope and course of his employment at the time of the injury.  This decision was affirmed by the Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board (WCAB).

As many of our readers know, we are very connected to the Lehigh Valley.  This is something we feature on our website.   We have an office in Center City Allentown, at 609 Hamilton Street, just blocks away from the PPL Center, to serve our clients throughout the Lehigh Valley area.  We are also proud members of the Bar Association of Lehigh County.

So, it seemed an obvious decision for us to partner with the Lehigh Valley IronPigs, the AAA minor league affiliate of the Philadelphia Phillies.  You can now see our advertising when you come out to Coca-Cola Park in Allentown to root on the IronPigs this Summer.

Here are some photos from a game this week, showing our ads:

As proud members of the Bucks County Bar Association (BCBA), the attorneys at Brilliant & Neiman LLC joined other members of the BCBA last night for the annual Judge John J. Rufe Softball Game.  Playing for the “seasoned” lawyers team (that is, of course, the most diplomatic way one can say “old”), Glenn Neiman helped secure a win for the team.  Dina Brilliant cheered on the team from the safe confines of the bench.  This was the first win for the old . . . seasoned . . . lawyer team in three years.

Aside from enjoying the comradery of the event, these types of occasions are important for our attorneys to interact with other attorneys across Bucks County.  Since our firm limits its practice to just handling Pennsylvania workers’ compensation cases, we do not handle other legal matters.  However, we have occasions when our clients, or people who contact our firm, need an attorney for another matter, whether that is a car accident, divorce or support issues, criminal defense, real estate, bankruptcy, employment law or any other area of law.  By being active in the BCBA, we have the luxury of having many fine attorneys in various areas of the law to which we can refer clients.

And, it is not just Bucks County.  The attorneys at Brilliant & Neiman LLC are also members of the Lehigh and Northampton County Bar Associations, and attend events for the Philadelphia and Montgomery County Bar Associations.  This provides our firm with a rich diversity of attorneys for a referral network, in many areas of the law, and many geographic areas.

Our attorneys were out of the office earlier this week, to attend the annual Pennsylvania Bureau of Workers’ Compensation Conference, in Hershey, PA.  While we hate to have our attorneys both unavailable to help our clients, we feel it is important for us to attend these seminars.  This conference is presented by the Bureau itself, so there is an opportunity to obtain information allowing us to stay current on all topics of interest in Pennsylvania workers’ compensation.

While there are not many attorneys, like us, who represent injured workers in attendance, we think listening in is helpful.  Most of the attendees at this conference are not attorneys at all; they are adjusters, risk management and safety officials from all across PA.  Additionally, many of the Workers’ Compensation Judges (WCJs) are in attendance.  We can hear what these folks are being told regarding different aspects of the PA workers’ compensation system.  This can help us anticipate issues and avoid some pitfalls that could pertain to our clients.

Topics addressed at the different sessions ranged from medical issues (including medical marijuana, the future of “telehealth,” and the role of nurse case managers), to internet surveillance, to Workers Compensation Medicare Set-Asides (WCMSAs), to different insights on how WCJs feel about varying issues.

Previously, we have discussed “reported” cases versus “non-reported” cases, and how each can be used (the Courts have now started to use the terms “precedential” versus “non-precedential”).  Since they are not binding on a Workers’ Compensation Judge (WCJ), we rarely discuss non-precedential (or “non-reported”) cases on our blog.  However, when we see a decision in an important area of law, it can be helpful to explore how Courts are treating the law (and the previous cases).

Several years ago, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania decided the case of Lewis v. Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board (WCAB).  This case was critical for the rights of injured workers in Pennsylvania, as it kept the workers’ comp insurance carriers from being able to file Termination Petition after Termination Petition, for little purpose other than to harass and annoy the injured worker.  Instead, as logic would dictate, the insurance company would have to show that there was actually a change in the condition of the injured worker before the insurance carrier could win a subsequent Petition for Termination (after litigating, and losing, a previous Petition for Termination).

As we noted on our blog, this was followed by some indication that PA Courts would undermine the concept, and allow a Termination of workers’ compensation benefits, even after litigation of a previous Termination Petition.

Once an injured worker proves an entitlement to workers’ compensation benefits in PA, only certain things allow a Pennsylvania workers’ comp insurance company to stop paying those benefits.   Some of the more common things would be convincing a Workers’ Compensation Judge (WCJ) that the injured worker has fully recovered, has returned to working at pre-injury wages, or has left the labor market for reasons unrelated to the work injury.  Another basis for the stoppage of workers’ compensation benefits in PA is incarceration.

Under Section 306(a.1) of the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act (Act), “Nothing in this act shall require payment of compensation under clause (a) or (b) for any period during which the employe is incarcerated after a conviction . . . “  While this sounds simple, as with many things, there can be disagreements on the application.

Recently, the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania issued a decision in the case of Sadler v. Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board (Philadelphia Coca-Cola).  Here, the injured worker was receiving PA workers’ compensation benefits.  He was charged with a crime, and could not afford bail.  As such, he was incarcerated.  This, of course, would not allow a stoppage of workers’ comp benefits, since the incarceration did not come “after a conviction.”

We are not the official workers’ compensation law firm of the NFL.  Or of any major sport.  What does that even mean?  We do not have a slick marketing department, which puts our faces on billboards or TV.  What we ARE is the law firm for injured workers.  Our focus is not on fancy marketing; it is on delivering the best personal attention to your case.

We do not have multiple paralegals for each attorney, nor do we have more attorneys than you can count.  We have two attorneys that will actually handle your case.  What does that mean for you?  It means that both of our attorneys are experienced and certified as specialists in workers’ compensation law.  Each of our attorneys has over 25 years of experience in the field.  You will never have your case handled by a junior attorney with little or no experience.  You can be confident that every step of your case will be handled by an experienced and qualified attorney.

Some firms have paralegals and assistants handle the day-to-day things on a case.  The injured worker doesn’t speak to his or her attorney; the injured worker speaks to the attorney’s “team.”  That is not how we operate.  At Brilliant & Neiman LLC, one of our two attorneys is personally handling your case.  You can speak directly to your attorney to have any concerns addressed or questions answered.