Recently, the Pennsylvania Workers' Compensation & Workplace Safety 2015 Annual Report was published through the PA Department of Labor & Industry Bureau of Workers' Compensation. This report, which outlines changes made to the Bureau in 2015, is important for anybody who has been injured on the job to understand. But we know very few people want to wade through an 88-page government report - which is where we here at Dugan & Associates come in! Here are a few of the major changes you should be aware of:
Safety Focused in 2015
The Bureau expanded its safety programs significantly in 2015, helping over 11,000 employers develop workplace safety committees. This means that nearly a quarter of all workers in the state are represented by one of these state-certified committees - that's about 1.5 million employees. Because these employers are entitled to workers' compensation insurance premium discounts, companies have saved more than $600 million so far.
If you've been injured on the job, see if your workplace offers one of these committees. They may be able to point you to helpful resources regarding your status as an injured employee.
The Office of Adjudication at the Bureau spent 2015 expanding its services to include more judges qualified to provide mediation services and other alternative dispute resolution methods. By providing an alternative venue for workers' compensation disputes, the Bureau hopes to help injured employees gain assistance.
Remember - not all workers' compensation cases require a lawsuit, but in many cases, you'll want a qualified attorney on your side. Even though mediation doesn't require a lawyer, it can help to have an understanding, caring individual on your side who knows the process and what you're going through.
Online Systems Provide Better Services
A final major change the Bureau implemented in 2015 is the addition of a new WCAIS Brief Submission Tracking System & Enhanced Customer Service. The Customer Service tool allows users to find information or get help much more easily. The Submission Tracking System offers a variety of features, including notice of appellant/appellee brief due dates, the ability to file brief extensions online, and more. The two systems worked well: 97 percent of petitions were filed online in 2015, and 99 percent of answers were filed online, too.
These new systems give employees injured on the job more options for finding information regarding their specific situation. It also gives attorneys like us a way to gain more information more quickly so we can assist our clients in a timely fashion.
The Future of Workers' Compensation Cases
We're excited to see new changes, including a focus on digital services, in the Bureau of Workers' Compensation. These changes help injured employees in many different ways, from getting better information to providing additional methods of resolving claims. We hope 2016 provides as many benefits from the Bureau as last year!