Workers’ Compensation Appeal Process in Pennsylvania
Even when an injured worker receives a decision from the Workers’ Compensation Judge (WCJ) in Pennsylvania, the case is not over. Either side may appeal the decision to the next level, the Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board (WCAB). Such an appeal must be filed within 20 days of the decision of the WCJ.
An appeal must allege that the Workers’ Compensation Judge committed an “error of law” or that the decision issued by the Judge is not a “reasoned decision.” Simply disagreeing with the decision is not a proper basis of appeal. An appeal cannot challenge who the Judge believed (called “determination of credibility”), since this is solely at the discretion of the Judge.
The WCAB schedules oral argument at various locations throughout the year. At the time oral argument is made, the WCAB also expects a brief to be filed by the appealing party (though a party can request additional time to submit a brief).
Once the decision of the WCAB is made, the losing party can then appeal to the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania. This appeal must be filed within 30 days of the WCAB decision. Oral argument is rarely done at this level and the matter is usually decided just on the written arguments filed by the parties.
The decision of the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania can be appealed to the Supreme Court of PA, though the Supreme Court only hears cases it chooses. The appealing party files a petition for “Allocatur” with the Supreme Court of PA, which the Court then grants or denies. If the Court grants allocatur, it accepts the appeal and will decide the issue. If the Court denies allocatur, the decision of the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania becomes final.