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How does workers' compensation work in Pennsylvania?
The workers' compensation system protects employees and employers. Employees receive medical treatment and are compensated for lost wages associated with work-related injuries and disease, and employers provide for the cost of such coverage while being protected from direct lawsuits by employees.
If I contracted COVID-19 at work, is that a work-related injury or disease?
An illness caused by work exposures can be considered an injury or an occupational disease. Occupational diseases are those identified by the PA Workers' Compensation Act, as well as the diseases that occur more often in specific jobs or industries. Exposure to COVID-19, which resulted in the illness, would most likely be considered an injury, but could also be an occupational disease depending on the type of work performed.
How do I report my work-related exposure to or illness from COVID-19?
As soon as you know that you have been exposed to COVID-19 at work or have been diagnosed with COVID-19 that you believe is related to your job, you should report your injury to your supervisor/employer within 21 days of the injury, or when you know of the injury, to be covered completely. You may give notice up to 120 days after the injury to be covered from the date you give notice.
What happens after I report my injury?
Employers are required to report immediately all employee injuries to their insurance company. Within 21 days, employers/insurers are required to either accept or deny the injury as compensable under workers' compensation. If the injury is accepted, the employer/insurer will issue a Notice of Compensation Payable or Notice of Temporary Compensation Payable. If the injury is denied, the employer/insurer will issue a Notice of Compensation Denial.
If my claim is accepted, what benefits can I expect to receive?
Workers' compensation will cover lost time from work (if you miss more than one week from work), at a weekly rate equal to 2/3 of your average weekly wage earned for the year before your injury. Workers' compensation will also cover 100% of medical expenses related to the injury. Wage loss benefits are available for as long as you are out of work due to the injury. Medical expenses are covered for as long as you need treatment for your injury.
Do I get paid from the first day I miss work?
In Pennsylvania there is a 7-day waiting period. An employee must be off work a total of 14 calendar days to be paid for the first 7 days of disability.
I believe I contacted COVID-19 from a sick co-worker. The co-worker tested positive and I became ill a short time later. How do I file a workers' compensation claim?
You should report your illness to your employer immediately and inform them you want to file a workers' compensation claim. Your employer and their insurance company have 21 days to decide whether to cover your condition under workers' compensation.
What can I do if my claim is denied?
Employees have up to three years from the date of injury to file a Claim Petition to get their injury covered under Workers' Compensation. After a claim petition is filed, it is assigned to a workers' compensation judge in the county in which the employee lives. Once the petition is assigned, all parties will be notified as to the date, time and place of a hearing.
My physician directed me to stay off work because he suspected I was exposed to COVID-19 but my workers' compensation claim was denied, can I appeal that denial?
You have the right to file a claim petition to have a workers' compensation judge decide whether you should be covered under workers' compensation. A claim petition must be filed no later than 3 years after the date of injury. You may want to consult with an attorney that practices workers' compensation law for more information about your rights.
What is the process my claim will follow once it is assigned to a workers' compensation judge?
The litigation of all workers' compensation cases is handled by the Workers' Compensation Office of Adjudication (WCOA). Submit a question or chat live with the WCOA Resource Center by selecting the "Contact Us" option from the Customer Service Center dropdown in WCAIS (www.wcais.pa.gov). You may also contact WCOA via e-mail at WCOAResourceCenter@pa.gov or by telephone at 1-844-237-6316. Hours of operation are 8:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. Monday – Friday.
Will COVID-19 affect how my existing case is processed?
As of 2:00PM , Monday, March 16, 2020, all state offices were ordered to be closed by Governor Wolf. The order is effective for 14 days. Petitions and answers will continue to be processed electronically. As for existing claims, the Department of Labor and Industry is establishing a temporary telephone hearing protocol to reduce the personal contact that can cause exposure to the virus. Your attorney will be advised of the future hearing procedures. Your claim WILL NOT BE DISMISSED, but normal hearing times may be slightly delayed as the emergency hearing procedures are developed and implemented.
Will I be able to file a petition or answer to a petition during the COVID-19 emergency?
Yes. Workers' Compensation Office of Appeals (WCOA) has made alternative arrangements to assure that petitions are timely filed and served during the crisis. However, hearing procedures will be modified until the crisis is abated.
I do not have an attorney for my case and it is currently assigned to a workers' compensation judge. How do I stay informed on what is cancelled or delayed and what will take place?
You will continue to receive notices by mail. However, you can get up-to-date information by registering on the online filing service "WCAIS" which posts daily information about office closures, delayed openings, and early closures. You can also call the Judge's secretary. Also, individual Judge schedules are posted to notifying parties and their attorneys about cancellations and/or rescheduling.
Can I receive telemedicine for a workplace injury or illness under workers' compensation?
In recognition of the Pennsylvania Department of Health, and CDC information concerning social distancing, the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry Office of Workers' Compensation would like to remind employers, employees, and healthcare providers that telemedicine and virtual care may be sought by workers sustaining injuries and illness for treatment related to a compensable work injury.
Yesterday (3/18/2020), The Pennsylvania Department of State's (DOS) Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs (BPOA) released guidance clarifying that health care professionals licensed under any of BPOA's licensing boards can provide services to patients via telemedicine during the COVID-19 emergency.
Telemedicine visits can be used for new injuries or ongoing treatment of injuries sustained in the workplace.