Many injured workers in Pennsylvania know not to sign a document they receive from the workers’ compensation insurance company without checking first with an experienced workers’ compensation attorney. Unfortunately, few injured workers are aware that some documents exist in the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act which can cause workers’ comp benefits to be reduced, or stopped, even if the documents are NOT signed by the injured worker.
When an injured worker returns to work in PA, he or she is still entitled to workers’ compensation benefits if there is still a loss in earnings (maybe the modified job pays less per hour, or offers fewer hours). The workers’ compensation insurance company must take some action if it wishes to reduce, or stop, weekly compensation benefits. In the old days, the workers’ compensation insurance company would have to file a Petition for Modification or Suspension, and litigate the issue. This is no longer the case.
These days, the workers’ compensation insurance company can simply file a Notification of Modification or Suspension, which contains an affidavit that the injured worker has returned to work, whether at pre-injury or reduced wages. If the Notification of Modification or Suspension is not “challenged” (appealed) by the injured worker, the Notification of Modification or Suspension has the same legal effect as if the injured worker signed a Supplemental Agreement, agreeing that the injured worker did return to work at those wages.
The challenge of the Notification of Modification or Suspension must be filed by the injured worker within 20 days of when the injured worker received the Notification of Modification or Suspension. According to a recent case in the Commonwealth Court of PA, Wawa v. W.C.A.B. (Seltzer), the date the injured worker received the Notification of Modification or Suspension is a finding of fact to be made by the Workers’ Compensation Judge (and will not be disturbed on appeal, if supported by “substantial evidence”).
This is yet another danger to the injured worker, who may be unaware that valuable rights can be lost simply by not taking action. It is very important that the injured worker be fully informed of the potential pitfalls contained within the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act.