In Pennsylvania, Do I Get Reimbursed for Mileage for Doctors Visits under Workers Compensation?

04102-box2A work-related injury can be financially devastating for many Pennsylvania workers.   If your workers compensation claim is denied and you are out of work, while you litigate the Claim Petition, you will have no income, unless you can obtain short term and/or long term disability.  Even if your work-related injury is accepted, many injured workers struggle, because, depending on your pre-injury wages, your workers compensation benefits are either 90% or 2/3 your pre-injury wage. For some who live pay check to pay check, that reduction can be a financial hardship.

Beyond the wage loss benefits, I am often asked by clients if they can be reimbursed for travel to and from their doctor and physical therapy.  In a rural area like South Central Pennsylvania,a specialist could be 30-50 miles away.  In a time period where we are experiencing high gasoline prices, those travel expenses can bet significant.  Unfortunately, in Pennsylvania, insurance carriers are not required to reimburse injured workers for travel to and from their treating doctors and therapy.   Insurance carriers are only required to reimburse travel to and from an appointment with their doctor, an Independent Medical Examination (IME).

The other rare exceptions were carved out in Helen Mining Co. v. WCAB (Tantlinger), 616 A.2d 759 (Pa.Cmwlth. 1992), in which the court said:

1.  If treatment is available locally, the claimant is not entitled to reimbursement for travel expenses except in exceptional circumstances;

2.  If treatment is available locally and the claimant chooses a physician outside the local area, the claimant is not entitled to reimbursement for travel expenses;

3.  If treatment is not available locally, the claimant is entitled to reimbursement for travel expenses as long as the claimant travels to a facility where others are or would be referred.

The court later clarified what the term “local” means.  The established rule is 100 miles.   If the travel was over 100 miles one way, then travel may be reimbursable.  If it is under 100 miles, then the three rules above are applicable.

As an example, if you chose to go to a hand specialist in Philadelphia because you heard he/she was the best, but a hand specialist/surgeon is available in your area, then that travel, despite being over 100 miles, will not reimburse that travel.

Fact is, in terms of travel to doctors appointments, physical therapy, and other appointments, generally, insurance carriers are not required to reimburse any travel.

Shippensburg School Board approves LERTA for Georgia Pacific

The Shippensburg School District’s Board of Directors approved a LERTA for Georgia-Pacific at last nights board meeting.  The original LERTA proposed by Georgia-Pacific a few weeks ago initially requested 100% abatement in the first year with a seven year total LERTA.  That proposal was rejected by the School Board.  The new LERTA approved last evening provides tax dollars to the District throughout the LERTA, including the first year, and is for six years in length.   I voted to reject the initial proposal because I felt it was imperative to seek a shorter LERTA term and get monetary concessions up front.  That was achieved last evening.  For a School District facing mounting fiscal pressures because of the failure of the Commonwealth to adequately fund public education, these businesses are crucial in providing significant new tax dollars to the property tax base.

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Georgia-Pacific is expected to sign a lease for the Pro Logis site off Exit 29 of Interstate 81 sometime after July 1st with construction to commence almost immediately.  The warehouse will be approximately 1.5 million square feet and will employ between 50 and 60 employees.  Georgia-Pacific is the second large warehouse to come to Shippensburg in the last two years.  Procter & Gamble is building off Exit 24 in Shippensburg off the Olde Scotland Road.  That building is near completion and expected to be open and running by end of summer.   Procter & Gamble has begun the hiring process in Shippensburg and is expecting to employ over 1,000 employees.   DB Schenker is the contractor used by Procter & Gamble to hire.  You can visit their website here.

The growth in the Shippensburg area coincides with what we have seen over the last fifteen years in Greencastle, Chambersburg, and Carlisle areas along the Interstate 81 Corridor.  We fully expect additional manufacturing and warehousing facilities to come to the Pro Logis site in Cumberland County and the sites along Olde Scotland Road near Procter & Gamble in Franklin County.

Mooney & Associates is a general practice and personal injury, including workers compensation, law firm with offices throughout South Central Pennsylvania.  We opened our Shippensburg office last year and it is located at 34 West King Street with Bell Insurance.  For workers compensation issues, we offer FREE CONSULTATIONS.  You can contact our firm at 717-530-0126.  Additionally, we hold evening hours every week in Shippensburg on Tuesday evenings from 5:00 PM to 7:00 PM for those that work.  Evening hours are on a first come, first serve basis.

Holy Spirit becomes Geisinger Affiliate

Holy Spirit Health System, which includes Holy Spirit hospital, located in Camp Hill, Pennsylvania, has agreed to become an affiliate of the Geisinger Health System.   Agreed to back in September, the two health systems made it formal with an announcement on Monday.  It is yet another signal of a continued approach of consolidation of the health care industry.

 “As the health care delivery system in the United States moves toward a value-based model, we look forward to working together to implement evidence-based medicine programs, enhance capabilities, facilities and clinical services, and improve population health in the Harrisburg community,” Geisinger Health System President and Chief Executive Officer Glenn Steele Jr., said in a written statement.

 

Procter & Gamble in Shippensburg Begins Hiring, Georgia Pacific likely choosing Exit 29 site

Procter & Gamble has begin the hiring process for their new Shippensburg, Pennsylvania facility.  The new 1.8 million square foot warehouse is being built along the Olde Scotland Road and is fully constructed on the exterior.   They are expected to hire 963 workers for the new facility.welcometoshippensburg2

The company will be using two third-party contractors for the hiring of employees.  Translation — the company will be using temporary agencies to staff the complex.

The company said that hiring at the facility will be handled by two independent contractors — Quality Associates Inc. and DB Schenker.

DB Schenker has launched a website where interested applicants can apply,LogisticsJobsShippensburg.com.

A spokesperson for DB Schenker said the company is now hiring for a wide variety of positions, including general warehouse, quality assurance, human resources, operations, traffic control, training, yard drivers and other positions.

In total, there is expected to be 963 total employees when fully functional, a handful of which will be actual Procter & Gamble employees.  The rest will be staffed through the above-referenced agencies.  We last reported on the status of the Procter & Gamble facility in this article.

Additionally, Georgia-Pacific is close to locating a facility in Shippensburg as well.  Originally, when we reported on Georgia-Pacific, the location choices for their new 1.5 million square foot were the Pro Logis site in Southampton Township, Cumberland County, off Interstate 81 Exit 29, and another location in Southampton Township Franklin County off Exit 24.

As a School Board member in Shippensburg, I sat through another presentation by Georgia-Pacific and the ProLogis developers last evening.  The actual site selected thus far is the ProLogis site off Exit 29 in Cumberland County.  The company reiterated that approximately 50-60 jobs will be created.  None of the employees on site are expected to be employed by Georgia-Pacific, but again, a third party contractor.    The Franklin County site off Exit 24 is no longer under consideration.

Shippensburg continues to be a hot bed for Distribution project development because of the Interstate 81 Corridor.  We have already seen substantial development in Greencastle, Chambersburg, and the Carlisle area with huge warehouses and manufacturing facilities.  Not only has development pressed local housing markets, but have also put tremendous stress on the local labor markets.  The end result may also be substantial stress on the local school district, should Shippensburg see an influx of new residents.  I suspect, based on ongoing rumors, we can expect to see continued development along the Olde Scotland Road at Exit 24.

It is important to note, with over 1,000 new temporary agency jobs on the way, that should a worker experience a work-related injury, temporary agencies are not exempt from workers compensation liability.  The same basic rule applies to all employers — if you are injured at work, their is an employee-employer relationship, the injury happened in the course and scope of employment, and the injury is work-related, then you may be eligible for workers compensation benefits.

It’s quite simple.  If you are hurt at work and you believe the injury is related to work, call Mooney & Associates right away for a FREE consultation.   We have an office in downtown Shippensburg located at 34 West King Street, with Bell Insurance, across from the long time Pague & Fegan hardware store.

Drug Tests and Impact on Employment and Workers Compensation

The Pennsylvania Manufacturers Association recently released a report that one in three potential employees either refuse to take a drug pre-screen test or fail a pre-screen drug test.

While in many cases the percentages are not high, the fact that 19% refuse to take drug tests as a condition of employment and 16% fail these tests raise a red flag and a real concern about this issue.

These stats are troubling and disheartening for Pennsylvania.   Drug pre-screen testing is becoming more prevalent because of stat reports like this and because of workplace injuries resulting from illegal drug use while on the job.   Many manufacturers and distribution centers now require drug screening after a work injury occurs.

So what exactly are the ramifications of a positive drug test that involves a work place injury in Pennsylvania?

First, a failed drug test will likely trigger a Notice of Compensation Denial be issued by the Employer, denying workers compensation benefits.  That means in order for an injured employee to get wage loss benefits, he/she must litigate a Claim Petition.  During the litigation, the employee is not being paid any income, if the injury is causing him/her to be out of work  That is significant for most families and injured workers.

Second, if the injury was caused by the illegal drug use, then the claim is barred by law.   It is a ‘but for‘ test.  The rule means that if the injury would not have occurred BUT FOR the intoxication or illegal drug use, then the injured employee is not eligible for workers compensation benefits.   If the injury would have occurred regardless of intoxication or illegal drug use, then the injured employee may be eligible for workers compensation benefits.

Other impacts . . .

What if the employee fails a drug test and is fired for that failed drug test?  If the employer has a Zero Tolerance policy and the employee subsequently fails a drug test and is fired, the right to wage loss benefits is affected.   You can actually win a Claim Petition, but receive no wage loss benefits.  Lets look at an example.  An employee is injured on the job and fails a drug test at the hospital.  The employer subsequently terminates the employee, in accordance with company policy, for the failed drug test. During litigation of the Claim Petition for benefits, the insurance carrier’s doctor testifies that despite the work injury, the employee could work light duty, such as, lifting up to ten pounds.  Employer then puts on a fact witness from Human Resources that testifies that light duty would have been available to the employee, BUT FOR the termination of employment for drug use.  If the Workers Compensation Judge finds the insurance carrier’s doctor to be credible, then Claim Petition would be granted, but an immediate Suspension of benefits would occur.  Why?  Because the Judge found that the Employee could perform light duty, that light duty was available, but the employee could not perform light duty because he/she was fired.  Essentially, the disability from work is not related to the injury, but to the termination from employment.

The same goes for receipt of wage loss benefits.  If you are receiving wage loss benefits and your Doctor or the insurance carrier doctor finds you can perform light duty, and the Employer offers you light duty, but you can’t do light duty because your job was terminated, a Judge can suspend benefits immediately because the disability is no longer work related, but related to termination of employment.

Carlisle worker killed at Amazon warehouse

OSHA is investigating the death of a Carlisle, PA woman while she was working at the Amazon.com warehouse near Walnut Bottom Road in Carlisle, Pennsylvania.

Jody Rhoads, 52, of Carlisle, died as a result of multiple blunt force injuries at Carlisle Regional Medical Center after the motorized pallet jack she was operating crashed into shelving, according to Cumberland County Coroner Charley Hall.

This is truly a tragic event for the Rhodes family.  No one asks to get hurt at work, let along lose their life.  OSHA will be investigating whether any policies, procedures, or OSHA standards were violated by Amazon that could have resulted int he tragic accident.

The geographic area we serve, mainly, Greencastle, Chambersburg, Shippensburg, Carlisle, and Mechanicsburg areas, are continuing to have experience quite a boom in warehouse, distribution, and trucking type facilities.    The area is not limited to, by any means,  simply warehouse and distribution type facilities, but it is the largest booming type industry along the Interstate 81 corridor.  You can see it up and down this corridor.  The reasoning is quite clear, Interstate 81 allows business access to the entire East Coast on one highway that avoids most major Metropolitan areas.   We just wrote two articles on two new projects coming or may be coming to Shippensburg, Pennsylvania along I-81, Procter & Gamble and Georgia Pacific.

With these type of facilities come tons of trucking jobs, shipping and receiving jobs, warehouse labor jobs, and forklift and pallet jack operating jobs.  We are seeing more and more injuries piling up from pallet jack and forklift type incidents and accidents.   We can only hope that the employer in these facilities, which many employees start out under temporary agencies, provide more than adequate training on this equipment.  It is not just the unfortunate type of accidents above, but also legs and ankles being run over, boxes, stacks, and shelving being knocked over and hurting other employees in the area, lifting injuries form unloading, and repetitive injuries from use of this equipment.

Again, we stress, if you work in a distribution/warehouse type facility and experience an injury, provide notice immediately to your employer and seek medical treatment.   Frequently, injuries in these types of facilities are also denied by the employer.  Don’t wait.  If your employer is causing you problems with your work injury, or with you getting benefits, or even getting medical treatment, we stand ready to assist with your Workers Compensation claim.   Our consultations for workers compensation are ALWAYS FREE.

If I live in Pennsylvania, can I bring a workers compensation claim in Pennsylvania?

Jurisdiction-101There are several different ways that a work injury can fall under the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.  Many people falsely believe that if one lives in Pennsylvania, then one can bring a workers compensation claim, regardless of where one was injured, within Pennsylvania’s workers compensation system.  That is not always true.

First rule is the easy one.  If the injury occurred in Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania will always have jurisdiction over that claim.  For example, if a worker from Illinois was traveling to New Jersey, but was injured in an accident in Pennsylvania, the injured worker can bring a workers compensation claim in Pennsylvania.  Simple rule.  If it happens here, it can be brought here.  One note here is that injured workers are sometimes are misled to believe that if he/she was injured in Pennsylvania, but their employment contract confers jurisdiction to another state, such as Delaware, then you must bring the claim in the other state.  That is simply not true.  Pennsylvania will ALWAYS have jurisdiction on a workers compensation claim when the injury occurred in Pennsylvania.  A contract for hire can’t extinguish that jurisdiction.

So, can an injury that happened outside Pennsylvania be covered under Pennsylvania workers compensation?  Depends.  Injuries that occur outside Pennsylvania may be able to gain Pennsylvania jurisdiction.  It depends on a few factors.  Here is how an injury occurring outside Pennsylvania can be brought as a workers compensation claim in Pennsylvania:

1.  If the employment of the injured worker is principally localized in Pennsylvania; or

2.  The injured employee is working under a contract for hire made in Pennsylvania and the employment is not principally localized in any state; or

3.  The injured employee is working under a contract for hire made in Pennsylvania and the employment is principally localized in another state, but that state’s workers compensation laws are not applicable; or

4.  The injured workers is working under a contract for hire made in Pennsylvania for employment outside the United States or Canada.

5.  The injured worker is domiciled in Pennsylvania and and the injured worker spends a substantial part of his working time for the employer in Pennsylvania.

It is critical to note that it is unlawful for an injured employee to be receiving workers compensation in another state or from the federal workers compensation system and in Pennsylvania at the same time for the same specific injury.  In other words, if more than one state has jurisdiction over the work injury, then the injured employee must choose which jurisdiction to bring a claim.

Whether you fit into any of these exceptions will be fact specific.  It is best to hire a workers compensation Attorney to assist you in answering questions regarding jurisdiction.   These issues are important.  Different states have different workers compensation benefits.  One state may have more workers compensation benefits than another state.  Getting the proper jurisdiction can be very important to an injured worker.

In summary, just because a person lives in Pennsylvania does not mean they can bring a Pennsylvania workers compensation claim if the injury outside Pennsylvania.  Where you reside does not necessarily covey jurisdiction to your home state.

Mooney & Associates stands ready to assist you in obtaining the workers compensation benefits you deserve.   Simply give us a call at 1-877-632-4656 or email us at info@mooney4law.com.