Pennsylvania Store Manager Trying To Stop A Theft Awarded Workers Compensation Benefits

CommCtA Pennsylvania gas station store manager who suffered a traumatic brain injury when attempting to foil a store theft, has been awarded workers compensation benefits in a decision by the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court.   The decision by the Court overturned the Pennsylvania Workers Compensation Appeal Board’s (WCAB) decision to deny the store manager benefits.  Here are the facts of what happened.

Wetzel was working at a BP store near Pittsburgh when a theft bid occurred in November 2009. He chased the suspect, drew a pistol and jumped on the man’s car during the confrontation and was thrown from the car and run over. Wetzel sustained a traumatic brain injury and was left comatose until he died five months later.

The rule at play here is ‘abandoned employment’.   Although the actual Workers Compensation Judge awarded benefits, the WCAB overturned the decision stating that when the store manager pursued the thief, he abandoned his employment, and therefore, was not entitled to benefits.  Essentially, the WCAB stated that chasing a thief was not part of the store manager’s employment and therefore, he abandoned his job.

The rule of abandoned employment is set out in prior case law.

“‘[a]n employee is entitled to compensation for every injury received on the premises of his employer during the hours of employment . . . so long as there is nothing to show that he had abandoned the course of his employment or was engaged in something wholly foreign thereto.’” Trigon Holdings, Inc. v. Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board (Griffith), 74 A.3d 359, 362 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2013) (quoting Henry v. Lit Brothers, 165 A.2d 406, 409 (Pa. Super. 1960)) (emphasis in original).

Much of the conclusion of this Court centered around past practices.  The WCJ accepted as credible testimony that the employer in the past had allowed employees to be armed and allowed employee to attempt to stop a theft in progress.

Given the past practice by Employer of permitting Decedent to not only carry a firearm, but to thwart a robbery attempt without consequence, we conclude that Decedent did not actively disengage himself from his work responsibilities when he attempted to stop the thief from fleeing Employer’s premises on November 28, 2009. While the events of November 28, 2009 show that Decedent perhaps made an error in judgment, the facts, as found by the WCJ, support the conclusion that Decedent’s job duties, as Employer’s night manager, included securing the safety of his fellow employees and the customers who patronized Employer’s store.

Furthermore, the Court found that the employee was not chasing and engaging the thief to further his own interests, but to further the interests of his employer.

Many times, employers will tell employees or simply deny claims based on exceptions within the Act, such as violating positive work orders or abandonment of employment.  In most cases, these are entirely fact sensitive.   If you have been injured at work and have been told that you are not eligible for workers compensation benefits, seek an attorney right away.  Your benefits provided by the Act are too important to ignore.

Mooney & Associates provides 12 convenient locations to meet with injured workers in Adams, Cumberland, Dauphin, Franklin, Fulton, Perry, and York counties. If you’ve been injured at work and want to speak with me about your work injury, simply complete the small form on our Contact Me page by clicking here, or call 1-877-632-4656.

Pennsylvania Workers Comp and Carpal Tunnel Claims

carpal2Carpal Tunnel syndrome can be a covered work injury in Pennsylvania workers compensation.   Given the latest stories we have posted here, with Procter & Gamble, Georgia-Pacific, and other large warehousing and manufacturing operations popping up all over Franklin, Cumberland, and Adams Counties, I felt it was time to address a common injury like carpal tunnel syndrome.

Carpal tunnel syndrome is not an injury one would expect when thinking about what actually would be a workplace injury.  Those are saved for more common type injuries, such as lifting injuries to the back, neck, and shoulder, pushing and pulling injuries, fork lift accidents, slip and falls, and etc.  Usually, most work injuries have a ‘specific event’ injury, such as lifting a box.  Those are your injuries most of though if when thinking about a workplace injury.

However, repetitive injuries are compensable under the Workers Compensation Act.  These type of injuries usually do not include a specific lifting type event, but are injuries in which symptoms appear over time and continue to worsen.  Carpal tunnel syndrome is one of the more common repetitive injuries.  Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when the median nerve.  This nerve runs from the forearm into the palm of the hand.  Carpal tunnel symptoms occur when this median nerve becomes compressed or squeezed.  Symptoms that rise from carpal can include pain in the wrist and hand, numbness and tingling in the wrist and hand, weakness, burning sensations, and other symptoms.

Carpal tunnel can be caused by repetitive activity.  Workers who do the same activities over and over are more susceptible to developing carpal tunnel syndrome.  Specifically, we see high levels in assembly and warehousing jobs because of the over and over, repetitive type activity.  Given the amount of warehouses and distribution centers in Greencastle, Chambersburg, Shippensburg, and Carlisle,  we are seeing an increase in these type of repetitive injuries, not just carpal tunnel, but in the shoulders as well.   Here is a chart that shows high occupational rates.

carpal

 

Frequently when an employee complains of carpal tunnel symptoms, employers initially attempt to just ignore the employee.  They will often try and blame it on other external factors, such as smoking, thyroid conditions, and activities outside work, like bowling, etc . . .  Often carpal tunnel alleged injuries are denied by the employer and its insurance carrier.  If you are experiencing these symptoms and you believe your work related activities are the cause for your symptoms, contact Mooney & Associates right away.  Certainly if your employer is denying the injury or giving you a ‘hard time’, you need to call an attorney.   Many factors go into proving carpal tunnel cases, such as the high rate of repetitiveness of the job, length of employment,  length of hours worked, combined lifting activities, and more.  if you believe you are suffering from a work-related repetitive injury, first thing to do is tell your employer.  Next, seek medical treatment and explain to your doctor your job duties and activities and the symptoms you are experiencing.  Finally, call Mooney & Associates for a FREE consultation at 1-877-632-4656.

Georgia-Pacific coming to Shippensburg, Pennsylvania?

Georgia-Pacific coming to Shippensburg? – Mooney & Associates
welcometoshippensburg2Georgia-Pacific, one of the world’s leading manufacturers of paper products, such as Angel Soft, Brawny, Sparkle, and Dixie, is considering two locations for a regional distribution center in Shippensburg, Pennsylvania.   The plans were presented last night before the Shippensburg School Board.  As a member of the School Board, I sat through the presentation and will be asked to vote on a LERTA, a property tax incentive program.

Georgia-Pacific presented two different locations in the Shippensburg area that it is considering for its project.  The first location sits in Cumberland County off the Walnut Bottom Road at the Prologis Business Park.  The location is across the road and near the current Beistle Company.  The second location is in Franklin County off the Olde Scotland Road across the road from the north-bound exit ramp of Exit 24 off interstate 81.  That location would be close to the new Procter  & Gamble that is expected to be up and running by September.   George-Pacific is expected to choose a location sometime in June 2014.  The School Board is expected to take up a decision on granting a LERTA at its next Board meeting on June 16.

Once the location is chosen, the project would likely get moving in development fairly quickly.   Georgia-Pacific indicated last night that the project anticipated completion date was July 2015.   The distribution center is expected to employ between 50 and 60 full time jobs.  Those jobs would be filled on a third party contract, meaning employees would not be employed by Georgia-Pacific.   Those jobs are expected to be typical warehouse jobs, including fork lift operators, shipping and receiving job, and labor type positions.  Anticipated wages would be between $14.00 and $23.00 per hour.

The fact that Georgia-Pacific is strong on Shippensburg is a clear indication of the popularity of the Shippensburg area and its I-81 access for manufacturing and warehousing type facilities.  Prior to Procter & Gamble, Shippensburg was already home to the North American headquarter of Volvo Construction Equipment, Schreiber Foods, JLG, US Express Trucking, and the Beistle Company.   Proctor & Gamble and Georgia-Pacific will add an estimated 1000-1100 jobs to the Shippensburg area.

The continued development along Olde Scotland Road will no doubt increase truck traffic and likely lead to road improvements in the I-81 Interchange area.    They will certainly add to the property tax base, but also bring new people to the area and potentially further press class sizes in Shippensburg schools.

In terms of workers compensation, these types of jobs lead to an array of work-related injuries.  Typically, in warehouse facilities, we see injuries related to lifting, repetitive type injuries, including carpal tunnel syndrome, and fork lift accident injuries.   Hopefully, at the end of the day, both facilities preach and practice  work place  safety and abide by OSHA and other safety standards.

With the increased population and growth in Shippensburg, Mooney & Associates opened a Shippensburg office two years ago.  Our office is located at 34 West King Street across from Pague  & Fegan.  We are located in a building along with Bell Insurance.  Our firm handles personal injury, including workers compensation, social security disability, and motor vehicle accidents, as well as general practice, including criminal defense, family law, real estate settlements, and estate planning and administration.   The office is an appointment only office.  Our attorneys will meet you in Shippensburg at any time by appointment.  Additionally, the Shippensburg office has evening hours every Tuesday from 5:00 PM to 7:00 PM.  All are welcome.

 

Procter Gamble set to add hundreds of jobs in Shippensburg

Procter Gamble is the midst of building one of the largest warehouses in Pennsylvania right in Shippensburg.  Below is a picture of the huge warehouse.

pgwarehouse

The facility is expected to be open by early fall 2014.  The distribution center is expected to employ over 960 employees, providing another shot int he arm to the Shippensburg and Chambersburg areas.   Given the healthy employment rates in Franklin and Cumberland County, the facility will likely draw new people into the area.

The tremendous project is one of a few expected to develop on the Olde Scotland Road corridor over the next few years.  Southampton Franklin, the township that is home to the new Procter & Gamble warehouse, is the fastest growing township in Franklin County and grew at a rate of 4.1% from 2010-2013.  Given Proctor & Gamble and other development that will be occurring in the area, that is likely not going to change.

As areas grow, Mooney & Associates grows as well. Over the past four years, Mooney & Associates have added full time offices in Chambersburg (80 North Second Street), Carlisle (2 South Hanover Street) and a un-staffed office in Shippensburg (34 West King Street).  Our Shippensburg office has evening hours every Tuesday evening from 5:00PM to 7:00PM.

Pennsylvania Unemployment Rate Falls for Ninth Straight Month

For the ninth consecutive month, the Pennsylvania unemployment rate has declined.  The current unemployment rate is 5.7% and has not been at that level since April of 2008.  In the month of April, Pennsylvania added 23,000 jobs statewide.   Here is a breakdown of where the increase in jobs came from.  One year ago, in April 2013, Pennsylvania unemployment rate was at 7.6%.

Total nonfarm %jobs grew by 10,900 in April to reach 5,768,800, the highest level since October 2008. The gain was concentrated in the private sector, which added 11,600 jobs while public sector jobs fell by 700.

The largest gain was in professional and business services (up 8,100), which reached a record high at 759,000 jobs.

Construction also added a large amount of jobs in April, up 6,500, the third gain in the last four months.

With regards to the specific counties in which our law firm practices, here are the individual county-wide numbers:

Adams County:  5.0%

Cumberland County:  4.8%

Dauphin County:  5.5%

Franklin County:  5.4%

Fulton County:  7.4%

Lancaster County:  4.9%

Perry County:  5.6%

York County:  5.9%

PA Supreme Court upholds Attorney-Expert privilege

A divided Pennsylvania Supreme Court has affirmed the Attorney-Expert privilege rule that protects communications between a treating doctor in a persona injury suit and Plaintiff’s legal counsel, if the treating doctor will be the case  expert.  The PA Supreme Court affirmed by a 3-3 split vote, in upholding a 2011 ruling by the Pennsylvania Superior Court, that barred an Orthopedic in Cumberland County from turning over correspondence between the Orthopedic Doctor and Plaintiff’s counsel.

“These rules attempt to balance the competing policies of promoting the truth-determining process through liberal discovery but also protecting attorney work product discovery to encourage efficient and effective client representation,” the opinion said. “After considering these policies under the language of the current rules, we would affirm the holding of the Superior Court and create a bright-line rule denying discovery of communications between attorneys and expert witnesses.”

Justice cited needless delay in trying to differentiate between work product in thee discovery process.  The decision and affirmation is a win for Plaintiff attorneys and those whom are injured.

 

Central Pennsylvania Social Security Disability and Waiting for a Hearing

The Harrisburg Office of Adjudication for Social Security Disability appeals, which serves Central Pennsylvania, is swamped with back log.

One of the very first questions that I am asked by a potential social security client is how long the process will take.  That’s a fair question.  Most people applying for social security disability (SSD) obviously are in severe financial distress.  They are applying because they can no longer work.

57f94-social-security-disability-attorneyUnfortunately, if you have severe medical condition that does not permit you to work anymore, and you are applying for social security disability to quickly fill the financial void,  you are mistaken.  First, after you apply for SSD benefits, it is not that uncommon for six to eight weeks to pass before you even get a determination on your application.   Currently, between 65% and 70% of all SSD applications are denied at the initial level of application.

It is important to note that if your application is denied, that doe snot mean you completely lost your ability to receive SSD benefits.  Upon receipt of the denial letter, the applicant has 60 days to file an appeal.  The 60 day period begins from the date of the denial letter the applicant receive dint he mail.  Failure to file an appeal within 60 days means the applicant must start the entire process all over again.   Simple way to appeal?  Contact our offices at 717-632-4656 or 717-263-9215 or email me us at info@mooney4law.com.  We will get you set up for an Intake, evaluate your case, provide you an honest assessment, and then we may get that appeal filed on your behalf.  It’s that simple.

Back to the backlog.  Again, it is important to note and disclose, if you are seeking a quick financial fix to your inability to work, social security disability will not be that fix.  The areas that we serve, mainly Chambersburg area, Carlisle area, Harrisburg area, Gettysburg area, Hanover area, York area, and Lancaster area, are all served by the Harrisburg Office of Adjudication.   The Harrisburg SSD office currently has nine social security disability judges.   They also have 7,440 cases pending and another 3,183 new cases assigned.  These numbers result in an anticipated hearing wait time of 15 months.  To further clarify with an example, if you file your appeal of your original denial in June 2014, you should not expect to have an Appeal hearing until Fall 2015.  That is not a worst case scenario, that is a typical and common scenario.

One more question we are frequently asked —if I am awarded social security disability benefits, how long do they last?  Simple answer.  As long as your disability lasts.  Social Security will periodically review your case to determine if you continue to be eligible.   To be eligible, your disability must continue and that disability must cause you to not be able to do any substantial gainful employment.  If you are still receiving disability benefits when you reach your full retirement age, your disability benefits will automatically be converted to retirement benefits. The amount you receive will remain the same.

Reporting a work injury in Pennsylvania

13def-blue_notice_sign_lOften, I hear stories from clients that they were told by Supervisors that if a work injury is not reported within 24 hours of occurrence, then they lose their workers compensation rights.  Not only is the practice deceptive, but it is also legally incorrect.

The PA Workers Compensation Act is specific in requirements to report an injury to your employer.  The Act states that an employee has 21 days from he date of injury to report the injury to the employer.  Once that is done, proper notice has been provided.  Reporting an injury thin the 21 days may allow an injured worker to be entitled to workers compensation benefits back to the first day of disability from employment.

That being said, if you fail to report the injury within 21 days, is your workers compensation claim barred by law?  No.  However, after the 21 days, entitlement to benefits changes a bit.  Let me explain.  If you fail to report your injury within 21 days, but before 120 days, then you may be entitled to workers compensation benefits, but not back to the first day you missed work, but he day you gave notice.   An easy example is, if you have been out of work for two months, 60 days, because of a work injury, and you provide notice of the injury to your employer on the 60th day you miss work that the injury is work-related, then you may be entitled to benefits, but only from the day you reported it.  That means you miss out on two months of workers compensation benefits.

What happens if I fail to report the claim within 120 days, is my claim barred by law?  Yes.  The law is clear.  You fail to report your work injury to your employer within 120 days, your claim for workers compensation benefits is forever barred.  You lose out.

Waiting to report a work-related injury can also cause problems with regards to your employer voluntarily paying your wage loss and medical benefits.  Delaying to report a work-related injury will almost always lead to your employer denying your claim.  That does not mean you are not eligible for workers compensation benefits.  However, if your claim is denied, you will have to fight for your benefits and the time you are out of work you will not receive wage loss benefits until you win your case.   When you report the work injury, that notice then triggers statutory responsibilities upon your employer and it’s insurance carrier.

There is a simple approach to this issue.  Report a work injury when it occurs.  Don’t wait.  If you worry you will lose your job, report it, then contact Mooney & Associates right away so we can protect your workers compensation rights.    You can contact us at 1-877-632-4656 or through email at mab@mooney4law.com.

We represent injured workers in the following areas and surrounding areas of Central Pennsylvania:  Chambersburg, Greencastle, Waynesboro,  Shippensburg, Carlisle, Mechanicsburg, Harrisburg, Gettysburg, Hanover, New Oxford, York, and Lancaster.

Injured at work and layoff in Pennsylvania

Often times, I get calls from injured workers, who return to work, and are then subsequently laid off due to slow down or job elimination.  It is a frequent occurrence.    The questions always revolves around the workers compensation issue and entitlement to benefits.

The more typical scenario here involves a plant or warehouse and a typical slowdown period where shifts are laid off.  Often, employers will instruct injured workers to apply for unemployment compensation benefits during the layoff period.  You may indeed need the unemployment if the employer refuses to reinstate you to full, temporary total disability benefits, which you would be entitled to, under the Act.

The key to this rule revolves around what type of work you were doing when laid off.  If you returned to work under restricted or light duty, and were laid off while working in that capacity, you are entitled to reinstatement to full wage loss benefits.  If you return to work to your pre-injury, regular job, but are still having effects of injury and treating, you may be entitled to wage loss benefits.

If your employer has informed you that they are not going to pay your Workers’ Compensation benefits, you will need to file a “Petition to Reinstate” benefits.   Simply call my office at 1-877-632-4656 or email me at mab@mooney4law.com to start that process.  You will need an experienced workers compensation attorney to litigate the Petition.

In the meantime, you are most likely eligible for Unemployment Compensation benefits due to the lay-off from work. Your Unemployment Compensation benefits will eventually be credited toward any Workers’ Compensation Benefits you may receive as a result of your Petition to Reinstate, and the success of that Petition.  However, you are most likely to begin receiving Unemployment Compensation benefits quicker in order to help you with your current loss of income.

Call Mooney & Associates today to protect your workers compensation rights.  We represent injured workers in the following areas and those areas surrounding Greencastle, Chambersburg, Carlisle, Shippensburg, Gettysburg, Dillsburg, Hanover, York, and Harrisburg areas.