Pittsburgh Workers Compensation Attorneys
Injured at Work in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania?
Employers are responsible for ensuring that their workers are safe. If an accident occurs because of a preventable hazard such as a slippery substance on the floor, an object falling from a shelf, or a hazardous piece of machinery, your employer may be liable for the damages.
In 2018, 23 employees were killed on the job in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Nationwide, there were 5,250 fatal work injuries that year.
In 2020, nearly 148,000 work injury and illness cases were reported to Pennsylvania’s Bureau of Workers’ Compensation. Fatalities in the state increased from 71 in 2019 to 72 in 2020. The most occurred in construction, followed by trade, transportation & utilities. The injury rate per 1,000 workers increased from 28.4 in 2019 to 30.0.
Sprain and strain injuries accounted for over a third of all injuries in 2020. The next three types of injuries accounted for just under half (47.4 percent) and included:
- contusions, crushing and bruising injuries
- “other” injuries and illnesses
- Cuts, lacerations, and punctures
If you or someone you love has been injured while at work, the Pittsburgh workers’ compensation lawyers at Chaffin Luhana can help you get the full amount of compensation you need to recover from your injuries and move forward with your life. Give our experienced Pittsburgh workers’ compensation attorneys a call today to schedule a complimentary consultation at 1-888-480-1123.
What You Should Know If You Are Injured On the Job in Pittsburgh
If you are injured on the job, you will have a workers’ compensation claim. It is important to note that you may also be eligible to file a lawsuit against the person(s) or company responsible for your injuries.
If you are injured by a piece of machinery, for example, you should have an attorney investigate to determine why the machinery caused you harm.
If the machinery was defective, you might have a product liability claim against the maker of the product. If the machinery wasn’t properly maintained or was old and no longer working properly, you may have grounds to file a claim against your employer.
If you weren’t given the proper safety gear or if you or another employee weren’t properly trained on how to use it, you may have grounds to file a claim based on negligence.
After you’ve suffered a workplace injury, you will file a claim with your employer. In most cases, the insurance company will investigate your claim and decide on your benefits within 30-60 days.
If all goes well, the insurance company will approve your claim and you’ll start receiving medical and financial assistance to help you toward full recovery.
Unfortunately, this may not happen. Your claim may be stalled or denied. It’s also possible that the insurance company will approve your claim, but not give you the compensation you expected, or pay damages for a shorter period than you needed.
This can be a stressful and nerve-wracking experience. You were counting on that money to get through this difficult time, but now it looks like it’s not coming, or at least not as quickly as you hoped.
If this happens to you, it’s important to act quickly. Contact your workers’ compensation attorney immediately and let them go to work for you.
Why might an insurer stall or deny a claim?
- The injury wasn’t serious enough to require medical treatment
- The injury didn’t occur on the job
- The employee had a pre-existing condition that could explain the injury
- The employee failed to file the claim in time
- There is a lack of evidence to support the employee’s claim
- There is suspicion of fraud
- The employee failed to get medical attention when expected
Even though the insurance company may claim one of the above has occurred, that doesn’t mean they’re right. Maybe you did have a pre-existing condition, for instance, but your work injury exacerbated it. In that case, you would still be eligible for benefits.
Mistakes may occur during the claims process, as well, that limit the insurance company’s offer. These may include the following:
- The company-approved physician was not qualified to diagnose or treat your illness or injury.
- The insurance company refused to recognize some aspects of your injury (perhaps due to lack of evidence).
- Your benefits were calculated on a lower wage than you actually earn.
- Your evaluation for permanent disability was incorrect.
In all of these instances, you have the right to launch a dispute to get the compensation you deserve. Your workers’ compensation attorney can help.
Appealing a Denied Claim
Your first step in any workers’ compensation dispute is to ask your workers’ compensation lawyer to talk to the insurance company representative directly. Often, the lawyer can resolve the dispute, which is the fastest way to compensation.
If that doesn’t work, there are other steps you can take. Your attorney can guide you, but in general, you’re likely to use one of the following methods:
- Mediation: This is a voluntary process by which a neutral third party works to help resolve disputes between the insurance company and the employee. Your workers’ compensation lawyer can handle this interaction. If an agreement is reached, it saves all parties from litigation.
- Hearing: If mediation doesn’t work, the dispute may proceed to a formal hearing. Though similar to the hearings that occur in a court of law, these are usually conducted by the state’s workers’ compensation board.
If you are not happy with the outcome of the hearing, you can usually file an appeal with your state court.
How to Work With and Select an Attorney in Pittsburgh for Your Workers’ Compensation Claim
When choosing a workers’ compensation attorney, look for the following traits:
Experience Handling Workers’ Compensation Claims
There’s nothing that substitutes for experience. The more a lawyer knows about workers’ compensation claims, state laws concerning such claims, and the tactics insurance companies may use to get out of paying benefits, the more likely they will be to get you the compensation you deserve.
Experience Handling Personal Injury Claims
A lawyer who has experience handling both workers’ compensation claims and personal injury claims is best suited to protect your interests. In some cases, for example, you may be entitled to personal injury damages or Social Security disability benefits in addition to workers’ compensation benefits. A lawyer experienced in both will make sure all bases are covered when fighting for your rights.
A Good Track Record and Success Rate
How has the attorney performed with other cases similar to yours? Feel free to ask this question, and to request testimonials and reports of success with other clients. Though past success can’t guarantee future results, they do indicate that the lawyer has the experience you need. If a lawyer cannot or refuses to give you this type of information, consider it a red flag.
Does the attorney demonstrate knowledge of workers’ compensation law? Check their website, blogs, presentations, and other online information. These can be good indications of a firm’s level of knowledge and experience.
Most workers’ compensation lawyers offer a complimentary consultation before taking your case. This is a great opportunity for you to ask questions and find out whether the lawyer is the right one for you.
Some good questions to ask include:
- How many years have you been handling workers’ compensation claims?
- Can you provide me with references and/or testimonials from former clients who had cases like mine?
- Would you explain to me how a workers’ compensation claim proceeds through the legal system?
- Can you represent me through the entire process, even if we have to go to court?
- What steps do you take to settle a claim before going to court?
- How do your attorney’s fees work?
- Can you tell me the strengths and weaknesses of my case?
Once you’ve chosen a workers’ compensation attorney, give that person all the information you have related to your injury. This should include a written account of what happened, any witness information you have, pictures, medical records, and anything else your attorney asks you for. Then be sure to keep all of your doctors’ appointments, and avoid sharing personal information online that may be used against you.
Why Hire an Attorney for a Workers’ Compensation Claim?
Though workers’ compensation is designed to help cover your expenses, insurance companies are known to look for loopholes that allow them to minimize payouts or even deny work injury claims completely. They may dispute your claim, suspend your benefits, or underpay you. Authorization for your medical treatments may be delayed or denied. Or you may struggle to get your medical bills paid because you’re working with an uncooperative insurance company.
It’s important to remember that the insurance company claims adjuster is working for the insurance company—not for you. You need someone on your side.
Not all Pittsburgh workers’ compensation attorneys have the skills and experience you need. At Chaffin Luhana, we have proven trial lawyers who have an extensive record of getting our clients the maximum possible benefits available.
We know how important it is that you have sufficient evidence to support your case, and we can help you with that. Our experience tells us what type of evidence you’ll need to bolster your chances of a good outcome, such as testimony from a vocational expert, statements from witnesses, evidence showing your employer’s history of workplace safety, and the like.
We can help you negotiate with the insurance company to reach a fair settlement. We understand the negotiating tricks and tactics often used by these companies, like bogus “final offers” that aren’t really as final as they may be presented—and can protect you from falling for them.
Finally, if necessary, we can take your case to trial, where we will argue for your rights.
We’re happy to meet with you to go over the details of what happened. We’ll give you the information you need to determine whether you’d like to work with us.
What Our Clients Have to Say About Chaffin Luhana
Below is a small sampling of the testimonials we have received from our clients:
$3 Million Recovery
“Roopal was always so friendly and supportive. I felt she cared more about me personally than she did about the case. Because of that, I felt she had far more desire to win the case.”
– Jodie S., Product Liability Injury Client
$1.9 Million Recovery
“You gave me my dignity back. I would certainly recommend you for anyone needing first-rate attorneys.
– Esther M., Consumer Client
Over $2.5 Million Recovery
“Well explained and speedy resolution. Received a much higher settlement than anticipated.”
– Birgit C., Product Liability Client
Over $1.5 Million Recovery
“As a client of this firm, I would highly recommend this firm for the experience, consideration, and quality they as a group showed.
– Anonymous, Personal Injury Client
Find more testimonials here.
Dedication to Community
Law partners Eric Chaffin and Roopal Luhana, along with their families, established The Chaffin Luhana Foundation in 2010.
A not-for-profit organization, the Foundation encourages the development of human potential and supports community empowerment through the following activities:
- Scholarships: Chaffin Luhana Foundation awards an annual scholarship to a student who helps us in the fight against distracted driving by submitting an inspiring personal essay.
- Financial gifts: The Foundation awards periodic financial gifts to institutions of higher learning to support scientific research and funds educational scholarships to students.
- Stephanie Victor Legacy Award: The Chaffin Luhana Foundation awards an annual financial gift to one deserving individual who overcame significant challenges and achieved great milestones in his or her life or career.
- Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation: Chaffin Luhana has partnered with this organization to benefit those living with spinal cord injuries and paralysis.
- Najee Harris Partnership: We have partnered with Pittsburgh Running Back, Najee Harris, and his Da’ Bigger Picture Foundation to support those in need in the Greater Pittsburgh area.
The founding partners of Chaffin Luhana have extensive experience in fighting for plaintiffs’ rights:
- Founder Eric Chaffin: Chaffin has handled a wide array of cases against various types of manufacturers, with dozens of multimillion-dollar recoveries.
- Founder Roopal Luhana: Luhana manages the firm’s mass torts division. Throughout her career, she has served on committees in MDLs involving over-the-counter consumer products and defective pharmaceuticals and medical devices.
- Partner Patrick Booth: Booth enjoys using his knowledge and experience to help his clients obtain the best results possible in their personal injury cases.
Chaffin Luhana lawyers have also been named to the prestigious “Super Lawyers” list several years in a row.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Every case is unique, and there are a variety of factors that may affect your workers’ compensation settlement.
According to the National Safety Council (NSC), amputations received the largest payouts in 2018-2019, averaging around $113,000 per claim. The next highest claims were for injuries resulting in fractures, crush injuries, or dislocations, as well as for burns. In general, payouts ranged from about $30,000 to $110,000.
The insurance company will look at your wage losses and your medical expenses to determine the value of the settlement. The value will be increased depending on your current and future potential medical treatment requirements, though of course, you will need solid evidence to prove those.
In Pennsylvania, there are limits to how much you can receive in lost-wage benefits. The most you can get is based on the State Average Weekly Wage (SAWW), which in 2022, was determined to be $1,205.00 per week.
Pennsylvania also has a general rule of giving you two-thirds of your normal weekly wage, unless you generally earn less than about $600 per week. Then you may receive a greater percentage.
An independent medical exam (IME) is a medical examination performed by a company doctor or “neutral” physician used to resolve questions about your medical condition. This doctor is usually different from your treating physician.
Who selects the doctor performing the IME is determined by state rules. Your workers’ compensation lawyer can guide you on those.
During the IME, the neutral doctor examines you and your relevant medical records, then writes a report that is used in your workers’ compensation claim. Sometimes, the company’s insurance company will write a letter to the doctor with specific questions to be answered. You should ask to review any such letter so you can correct any factual mistakes. Always keep a copy for your records.
Often, the insurance company or your employer requests this exam. They may disagree with the decision or diagnosis made by your treating physician and want those results confirmed by a neutral doctor. In other cases, a judge or hearing officer may order an IME to resolve any disputes.
During an IME exam, understand that you do not enjoy the protections of a normal physician-patient relationship. Anything you say is not protected and may be used against you. Stick to the facts and reveal nothing more.
You have the right to dispute this doctor’s findings if you don’t agree with them. Particularly if the insurance company chose the doctor, your workers’ compensation attorney may find that the doctor was not as “neutral” as expected. You may even want to request a second exam with a different doctor, in which case you would be requesting an IME yourself.
If your workplace injury prevents you from working for a while, you may be eligible for temporary total disability (TTD) benefits. Usually, you will need a diagnosis from your treating physician stating that because of your injury or illness, you are unable to return to work right away.
State laws determine when you start receiving benefits. Most states require a waiting period of three to seven days (out of work). In Pennsylvania, a worker must be disabled more than seven calendar days (including weekends) before payments are made. Benefits for time lost begin on the eighth day after the injury.
If you’re off work for 14 days or more, you will receive payments retroactive to the date of injury.
Dealing with late workers’ compensation checks can be very frustrating, particularly if you’re relying on those checks to pay bills and care for yourself and your family. Sometimes this is due to a simple mistake. Maybe the post office was delayed, or there was a mistake in determining when the check was due. Maybe the insurance adjuster working on your case went out of town, or computer errors were to blame.
Your first step (with your attorney’s help) is to notify the insurance company. It’s best to be courteous and polite. Find out what happened, and do your best to get it resolved.
In some cases, your check may be late because the insurance company has a specific reason it doesn’t want to pay you. Potential reasons may include:
- The company no longer believes your injury is work-related.
- The insurance company suspects you of fraud.
- You’ve been placed on light duty, or your employer has light duty work available for which you could qualify.
- You’ve reached the maximum medical improvement level in your treatment, meaning that you have recovered as much as you’re going to recover.
These reasons for delay may or may not be justified. If you believe they are not, work with your workers’ compensation attorney to address the situation. They will start by working with your insurance company.
If that doesn’t help, you have the choice of filing a petition for benefits, which will get a workers’ compensation judge involved. That judge then determines whether your benefits were properly or improperly delayed or denied, and may force the insurance company to take action. In some cases, the insurance company may have to pay penalties for late payments.
Pennsylvania law says you have 120 days to let your employer know that you suffered a work injury. You’ll want to tell your supervisor the date, time, and place where you were injured. If you wait too long, you risk having your claim delayed or denied.
You also have 3 years from the day you were injured to file a claim petition for an injury.
It’s natural to worry about your job security after suffering an injury. You may be concerned that your employer will retaliate against you by firing you.
Your employer has the right to fire you if you’re not doing your job, but they cannot fire you “because” you filed a workers’ compensation claim. That is against the law in Pennsylvania.
In other words, getting injured doesn't mean you can goof off at work and never get fired. But it does mean that you have the right to file a workers' compensation claim and that your employer cannot retaliate against you for that. Likewise, your employer cannot punish you for receiving benefits from a claim.
If your employer terminates you or otherwise shows signs of retaliation—and you believe it is because you filed a workers’ compensation claim—talk to your workers’ compensation attorney about your rights. They can help you get the justice you deserve.
Signs of potential retaliation by an employer include:
- Decreasing your hours (when you’re still fully capable of doing the job)
- Threatening you
- Making false claims about your job performance
- Giving you undesirable work duties you never had before or assigning you to unfavorable shifts for the first time
- Firing you
Pennsylvania law does not cap medical benefits, which means that you may receive these for as long as you need them, or as long as your settlement determines.
Pennsylvania law does, however, cap wage loss benefits. Workers typically receive benefits while recovering, then once they can return to work, the benefits cease.
How long you can collect compensation depends on your illness or injury. Pennsylvania has four main categories that provide compensation guidelines:
- Temporary Total Disability (TTD): If you are in this group, the belief is that you will be able to go back to work once you recover. TTD allows you to collect benefits for up to 90 days.
- Permanent Total Disability: If your injury is severe enough to prevent you from going back to work, you may be entitled to benefits for the rest of your life. This is rare, however. Also, your employer has the right after 104 weeks to require an independent medical exam (IME) to re-evaluate your condition. Depending on that physician’s findings, your benefits may be changed.
- Permanent Partial Disability: If your injuries are too severe to expect a recovery in 90 days, you may receive benefits for longer. This allows you to collect for a maximum of 500 weeks. Again, you may be required to undergo additional examinations to re-evaluate your case at certain points.
Disfigurement: If you were disfigured—maybe you lost a limb or other body part—you may collect benefits for longer, or you may be able to choose to take a lump settlement.
Pennsylvania law allows your employer to control medical treatment for the first 90 days of treatment for your work-related injury. Your employer must have a panel of at least six doctors available for you, and you can choose from that panel. Once the 90-day period is over, you can go to your own doctor if you like.
If your employer does not have an adequate panel of doctors for you to choose from, you have the right to go to a doctor of your choosing.
The workers’ compensation insurance representative may try to convince you to sign a release allowing the adjuster or representative to speak to or obtain medical records from any medical provider you’ve seen, or to speak with them about you.
In general, it’s best not to sign these types of releases. Your insurance company is entitled to see medical records only for the specific injury you suffered. They don’t have the right to speak to your medical providers, nor to sift through any of your other medical records.
If you sign a release, you could be allowing the insurance company to dig into your past to find out what other illnesses or injuries you’ve had, and that’s none of their business. But if they have access to this information, they may try to use it to deny or delay your claim.
Don’t believe any adjuster that tries to tell you you’re required to sign the release to receive compensation—that’s not true. It’s much better for you and your attorney to send the specific medical records concerning your injury to the insurance company.
Anything that is not related to the actual injury at issue is irrelevant and should not be given to the insurance company. Refuse to sign any releases, and work with your attorney to get the insurance company the specific records they need.