Experienced Pennsylvania workers’ compensation attorneys frequently are involved in cases where an injured worker, no longer able to perform his or her pre-injury job, is referred to other jobs in the community by a vocational counselor, at the request of the workers’ compensation insurance carrier. As lawyers who limit our practice to PA workers’ comp, we love to see cases reduce the power of the workers’ compensation insurance carriers to abuse this process.
Recently, on May 12, 2008, the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania decided PA Department of Corrections v. WCAB (Zvara). In this case, the claimant, who does not drive, was referred to five jobs, which were said by the workers’ compensation insurance carrier to be within the physical limitations of claimant. Claimant did not apply for any of the jobs (Often, the failure to apply for any of the referred jobs is nearly certain to cause the case to be lost). In this situation, however, the Court found that the workers’ compensation insurance carrier did not meet its burden of proof. Specifically, the workers’ compensation insurance carrier failed to prove public transportation was compatible with the hours of the offered jobs, or that the prospective employers would modify the hours of the jobs to accommodate the schedules of public transportation. The mere fact that the referred jobs were accessible by public transportation, without more, was not enough. Since the workers’ compensation insurance carrier did not meet its burden of showing jobs “available” to the claimant, the burden never shifted to claimant, to prove he or she applied for each job in good faith. As such, the Petition for Modification was denied.