PA Supreme Court rejects appeal from a former Pittsburgh Steelers

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has denied the appeal of former Pittsburgh Steeler Ainsley Battles.  The former Steelers’ player was seeking workers’ compensation benefits for a torn hamstring, which was an on-the-field injury.

Battles had surgery on the hamstring in 2004 and underwent subsequent rehabilitation with the Steelers training staff.  Eventually he was eventually released to play football again by his doctor in August of 2005. After his medical release, in 2006 the Steelers did not resign Battles to the roster.  Subsequently, he retired from football and filed a Claim Petition for wage loss benefits in 2007.  The Claim Petition sought total disability benefits from Sept. 12, 2004 through Jan. 30, 2007, and partial benefits from Jan. 31, 2007, to the present.  He also received a $50,000 severance payment from the Steelers.

Battles claim was eventually denied by a Workers Compensation Judge based on the following.

The judge found that the Steelers had essentially accepted a medical-only claim by recognizing Battles’s work injury and pay all medical expenses associated with it.  The judge also noted that the team had paid Battles the amount of his salary owed under his one-season contract.

The Commonwealth Court upheld the WCJ and the Appeals Board.

The panel wrote that it is undisputed that Battles missed the 2004-05 season due to his hamstring injury, but it noted that Battles suffered no earnings losses during that period because the Steelers paid Battles “what he was contractually entitled to receive for the 2004-2005 season,” the memorandum stated.  The appeals judges had also stressed that the team’s decision to hire another player to replace Battles had nothing to do with Battles’s hamstring injury.“In sum, the [workers’ compensation appeals] Board did not err in denying the instant claim,” the Commonwealth Court panel had written. “[Battles] is not entitled to disability benefits because he failed to prove that his work injury caused him to experience a loss of earnings.”

The Supreme Court denied the Appeal on January 22, 2014, offering no opinion.

Pennsylvania Notice of Injury to your Employer

I often get clients in my office that have either not told their employer about their work injury or told their employer about A injury, but failed to mention is happened at work.  Those are mistakes.  It is imperative that you tell your employer about your injury AND that it occurred at work.  Failure to do so can result in an unnecessary issuance of a denial.

First, there is no requirement that notice of an injury be in writing. You can verbally tell your supervisor.  However, in writing is the bets means of notice because of proof of notice, if needed.  Simply telling your employer without witnesses can result in your employer denying you ever told them.  Simply insistent on an Employee Injury Report form your supervisor.  When you get your first medical treatment, be sure to tell your doctor that it is work related and that you informed your employer.

Always remember when providing notice of injury to your employer to be unequivocally indicate that you are in pain and that you believe it is the result of a work injury or work activities.  Remember as well, informing a non-supervisory co-workers is not notice to the employer.  Tell your supervisor, or better yet, your human resources office.  Write the name of person down that you informed of your injury.

After you provide notice to your employer and get medical treatment set up, your next step should be to contact Mooney & Associates to protect your workers compensation rights.  They are too important to go it alone.  Your employer and workers compensation insurance carrier has attorneys reviewing your file, why shouldn’t you?   Call today for a FREE CONSULTATION at 1-877-632-4656 or email us at

Mooney & Associates represents clients in the following Pennsylvania counties:  Adams, Cumberland, Dauphin, Franklin, Fulton, Lancaster, Perry, and York.  Call for a convenient office location to you.

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Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Benefits and Taxation

I often get asked the important question regarding whether workers’ compensation benefits, specifically a lump sum settlement, is taxable income?  

The quick answer is — NO.  Workers compensation benefits are not a taxable event.  That applies to not just your weekly benefits checks, but also if you settle your case for a lump sum amount.  That also applies to settlements in general, irregardless of whether they are indemnity only or a full compromise and release settlement.  Here is the link to the IRS publication regarding workers compensation and taxes.  
However, if you are on or will be on social security disability, there is an offset that applies to as workers compensation settlement.  The net amount that you receive (your settlement amount minus the attorney fees and any set aside future medical expenses) should be pro-rated over the course of your remaining life expectancy because it will limit the potential post-settlement tax consequences to you as a result of your settlement as it relates to social security disability.  If you are not on social security disability and do not plan on going on to the program, then no concern to you.  If you are on SSD or plan to be on SSD, you should immediately contact us at Mooney & Associates to discuss the impact settlement has on your social security benefits.  
Now that we have discussed those two important items, it is critical that you speak with a workers’ compensation attorney before settling your case with your workers comp insurance carrier.  You should also consult with an attorney from Mooney & Associates to determine not only if you are getting fair value for your work injury, but if settlement is even in your best interest.  Call us today at 717-632-4656 or 1-877-632-4656 to set up a FREE consultation to discuss your potential settlement.  Remember, once you settle and the Judge approves your settlement, there is no going back.  Protect your rights and best interests!  

Amounts you receive as workers’ compensation for an occupational sickness or injury are fully exempt from tax if they are paid under a workers’ compensation act or a statute in the nature of a workers’ compensation act. The exemption also applies to your survivors.  . . . If part of your workers’ compensation reduces your social security or equivalent railroad retirement benefits received, that part is considered social security (or equivalent railroad retirement) benefits and may be taxable. For a discussion of the taxability of these benefits, see Other Income under Miscellaneous Income, later.

New Pennsylvania Workers Compensation wage rates

Effective January 1, 2014, the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry released the new compensation rates for injured workers who are out of work because of the work injury.  Each year the Department adjusts compensation rates.  Here are the new rates.  These rates only apply if you were actually injured in 2014.

If your average weekly wage is $517.77 or less, then you are entitled to 90% of your average weekly wage as wage loss benefits.  The maximum increase to $517.77 from $509.43 in 2013.

If your average weekly wage is between $517.78 and $699.00, then your weekly compensation rate will be $466.00.  That is an increase from $458.50 in 2013.

If your average weekly wage is between $699.01 and $1398/.00, then you are entitled to 66 2/3 your average weekly wage.  The maximum an injured worker can receive in 2014 is $932.00 per week, up from $917.00 in 2013.

Often, insurance carriers and employers miscalculate your average weekly wage.  At times they will not include overtime or concurrent wages, meaning income you had from a part time job.  Your workers’ compensation rights center around your average weekly wage.  It is imperative that the average weekly wage be correct.  If you have any questions or would like a FREE consultation to discuss your case, contact Mooney & Associates attorney Mark Buterbaugh at 1-877-632-4656.

Attorney Buterbaugh represents injured workers in Adams, Cumberland, Dauphin, Franklin, Lancaster, Perry, and York Counties.