These are trying times and we hope to never see our communities facing hardships of this scale ever again.
Our nation and the world is in the midst of a health crisis and an economic crisis. These events were sudden, and we are still learning what the full impact will be. In the meantime, we’ve spent countless hours this week trying to plan the best and safest ways to serve our clients while at the same time protecting the health and welfare of our employees.
We recognize the many challenges everyone is facing right now. Being injured, off work, with health issues, medical bills, and other bills while at the same time dealing with closures, curfews, and quarantines is trying both financially and emotionally.
Our office is open.
We have staff and attorneys working remotely. We are all in frequent contact to make sure that we continue to give the same great level of service we have always given.
Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation and Coronavirus
Here are the current status of major factors affecting workers’ compensation clients:
Hearings: Governor Tom Wolf has ordered that all hearings and mediations be postponed. His 14-day order went into effect March 17, 2020, and we are monitoring for ongoing updates as events develop.
Mediations: As relevant parties make new arrangements and adjust schedules for remote work, some judges are handling these by telephone.
Compromise and Release Hearings: WCOA Director has authorized the use of telephone hearings for Petitions to Approve Compromise and Release (C&R) Agreements. We expect telehearings to become part of a new normal practice.
Defense Medical Exams (IMEs): Insurance medical doctor exams are still going forward if possible. Before an exam, insurance doctors are requiring injured workers to answer various Covid-19 risk factor questions. Some IMEs are being postponed temporarily.
Ongoing Treatment: If at all possible please keep your doctor appointments. We suggest calling your health care provider prior to an appointment to make necessary arrangements. In some cases, telehealth may be an option.
Job Search Obligations: In some cases, injured workers may be required to follow up on potential job referrals. If you aren’t sure if this applies to you, please check with our office or your attorney if you have one. Due to government recommendations to avoid social contact or shelter in place, your requirements to return to modified duty and options for job referrals may have changed. Talk to us or your lawyer.
Lay Offs: Thousands of people are getting laid off across the state. If you have been back to work with restrictions and are laid off, you may be entitled to a reinstatement of workers’ compensation benefits.
Injury as Exposure: If clients contract the virus at work, is it compensable? We are supporting legislation for workers’ compensation coverage for all workers who become infected with the coronavirus if there is any nexus between their work and the contraction of the virus. Thousands of people will get sick as a result of their jobs, and we believe we should fight for those people.
Pennsylvania Personal Injury and Coronavirus
State courts will open to conduct all business starting May 4, based on an April 28 Pennsylvania Supreme Court order.
Factors that influence personal injury cases:
All in-person access and proceedings shall be limited.
Attorneys are encouraged to conduct depositions remotely.
Depositions involving doctors, nurses, or other healthcare professionals substantially involved in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic are suspended through June 1.
Court filings should be made by means other than in-person delivery whenever possible.
Self-represented litigants or attorneys who believe the enforcement of deadlines pose a danger to health and safety may file a certification with the court for consideration.
Jury trials remain on indefinite hold and will be rescheduled for a future date.
Suspension of time calculations and deadlines outlined in the Court’s previous Orders will end May 11, 2020.
Prior orders related to payments to Magisterial District Courts are extended until May 11, 2020.
Pennsylvania Social Security Disability (SSI and SSDI) and Coronavirus
On March 17, 2020, all Social Security offices switched to offering only phone services. All hearing offices are closed to the public, including claimants, representatives, Verbatim Hearing Reporters (VHRs), vocational experts, and medical experts. In the meantime, the Social Security Office is continuing “mission-critical” work.
Clients whose hearings are scheduled for many months in the future, or whose hearings have not yet been scheduled and do not meet any of the criteria for a critical case designation, should hold off on contacting OHO for non-urgent matters while the hearing office attempts to manage cases scheduled.
Contact our office or your attorney if you have questions.
We Believe in Western Pennsylvania
We’re all in this together and anything we can do to help each other only makes us stronger individually and collectively. Workers have come through for our country on countless occasions, saving the day when we needed them the most. As a firm, our commitment to workers in Western Pennsylvania has never been stronger, and we will stand by you through this chaos and fight for what you deserve. Stay well!