Yesterday, our attorneys participated in a webinar dealing with the continuing impact the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) is having on the Pennsylvania workers’ compensation system. We have already participated in hearings using Skype for Business, and understand some Workers’ Compensation Judges (WCJs) are experimenting with the WebX platform. Zoom had been used on occasion, but apparently some security concerns have rendered that unusable for our purposes.
Depending on the case and the situation, some attorneys, and the WCJs, are agreeing to simply delay the testimony of an injured worker for later in the case, hoping we will be able to have in-person hearings again in the somewhat near future. However, given the uncertainty in timing, there is often a need to move forward, at least with video, in addition to audio. We believe it is critical for the WCJ to actually see the injured worker testify, since so much comes down to simply whether the WCJ believes the injured worker or not.
Even in ordinary circumstances, the procedures followed by a WCJ vary widely, sometimes even in the same workers’ compensation hearing office. For this reason, there is a “Judge Book,” detailing the practices and procedures for each WCJ in the Commonwealth. Now, on the page for each WCJ, you will see “CLICK HERE TO VIEW THE JUDGE’S SPECIAL PROCEDURES DURING THE GOVERNOR’S EMERGENCY DECLARATION DUE TO COVID-19.” Here you will find how any particular WCJ is handling cases in the current COVID-19 era.
The webinar also detailed ongoing debate over the reinstatement of injured workers who have returned to employment, whether this return was to a modified job or the pre-injury position, to total disability benefits when their position was lost due to the Coronavirus. Much of this depends upon whether the injured worker remained under restriction at the time of the business closure or layoff, though each case really has to be analyzed under its own facts.
And, of course, there was ample discussion about essential workers who contract COVID-19 as a result of their employment, and their entitlement to workers’ compensation benefits. This could be healthcare workers, doctors, nurses and technicians, but also anyone else exposed to the Coronavirus, like delivery drivers, grocery store cashiers, nursing home employees and first responders, just to name a few.
Whether you have lost your modified-duty job as a result of COVID-19, or you contracted COVID-19 at work, or you just have a plain old workers’ compensation issue, call or e-mail us to get a free consultation. Under the Stay at Home Order of Governor Wolf, our offices are closed, but we continue to closely monitor our voicemail and e-mail regularly, and we are continuing to fight for the rights of injured workers’ in PA every day. You can leave us a voicemail at 215-638-7500, or reach us by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.