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What is Workers’ Compensation?

Have you been injured on the job? Maybe you twisted your ankle while rushing into the elevator for that meeting with the boss or sprained your wrist while trying to beat that deadline. If you have suffered a work-related injury, you may be entitled to benefits under the Pennsylvania workers’ compensation laws.

workers' compensation

workers’ compensation

The Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act (the “Act”) was enacted to provide no fault recourse for workers who suffer injuries in the workplace.  The Act ensures that no worker will go without some form of compensation for workplace-related injuries. The Act thus requires that all Pennsylvania employers register with an insurer for workers’ compensation coverage.

Every Pennsylvania worker is covered by the Act.  So, even if your employer has failed to procure workers’ compensation insurance coverage, you are still able to obtain compensation benefits under the Uninsured Employer Guaranty Fund.

What is workers’ compensation?

Workers’ compensation laws and regulations provide for you in the event of work-related injuries.  The Act provides financial, medical and other related benefits and support to workers who have been injured on the job.

The Act ensures that injured workers can obtain no-fault compensation for work-related injuries.  However, this “no-fault” insurance coverage comes with a compromise — your right to sue your employer for the injury.

What are some of the requirements to obtain workers’ compensation?

Before you can be eligible to receive benefits under the Pennsylvania workers’ compensation law, you must fulfil some requirements

  1. There must be an employer/employee relationship.

While this is usually straightforward, there are some situations when it is difficult to determine whether the relationship is an employment relationship under the law. For instance, an independent contractor does not qualify as an employee. For the purpose of determining whether a person qualifies as an employee, four things are usually considered:

  • The right of the employee to select the employer;
  • The employer’s right to “sack” the employee;
  • The employer’s power to direct the manner of performing the job; and
  • The employer’s power to control the employee;

Even if you don’t qualify as an employee under these conditions, you may still be an employee under the definition of a “statutory employer”.  For instance, if you are an employee of a sub-contractor that has been hired by a general contractor for a construction-type job, you may be entitled to compensation for work-related injuries. Your employer in this case is a “statutory employer.”

  1. The injury must have occurred under Pennsylvania jurisdiction

If you are hired in Pennsylvania, but often have to work in other states, it won’t matter whether the work injury happen in Pennsylvania, or some other jurisdiction.

  1. You must have suffered the injury in the course of employment

Each situation is usually decided on its merits, on a case-by-case basis. You don’t have to be actively working when the injury occurs, though. You could be playing tennis as part of the company’s sports team or attending a party for the company and possibly still be covered. The important requirement is that you must have been furthering the interest of your employer.

What type of workers’ compensation are you entitled to receive?

Under the Act, you are generally compensated for any disability that occurs as a result of work-related injuries.

Disability, under the Pennsylvania workers’ compensation law, is defined by work loss. A disability may result in total disability, temporary total disability or temporary partial disability. It is total disability scenarios when you are completely unable to work because of the work injury.

The Act defines an “injury” to include any condition caused by an accident or activity at work. As such, injuries need not be caused by accidents alone. Injuries caused by having to do the same thing over and over, such as typing with your back bent or injuries cause by abnormal working conditions, would also qualify as an “injury.”

What benefits can you receive under the Pennsylvania workers’ compensation law?

Depending on your injury, you may be entitled to any one or more of the following benefits:

  • Medical benefits. This would typically include the cost of obtaining medical treatment for the injury.
  • Wage benefits. You are generally entitled to compensation of up to two-thirds, sometimes more, of your average weekly wage. These benefits are not taxable.
  • Death benefits. This would be applicable only in the event of death caused by a wok-related injury. These benefits would be paid to the family or survivors of the employee.
  • Scarring benefits. This compensation is applicable in the event of disfigurement caused by work injury.
  • Specific loss benefits. If loss of limbs is involved, compensation would be payable for that specific loss. This does not mean that the whole limb must be lost though. It would suffice if it is shown that it has been made useless for the job.

How can you obtain workers’ compensation?

The Pennsylvania workers’ compensation law requires that workers who suffer any work-related injury must report the injury to their employer within 120 days – this period starts to run from the date of the injury.  You should always report a work-related injury to your employer, and make sure that an accident report is generated.

Your employer then either accepts or denies the claim. If the claim is denied, you can file a lawsuit to establish your work-related claim. You do this by filing a Claim Petition.

While there is no law that says you can’t fight for the claim on your own, it is generally a good idea to get in touch with an experienced workers’ compensation attorney from the moment you get injured.  The experienced worker’s compensation lawyers at Zwick Law understand how vital quality representation is to your claim.  We are prepared to review your situation and take over the time-consuming and stressful task of negotiating and fighting for you.

For questions relating to a work-related injury, contact Matthew R Zwick, partner of Zwick Law, at (814) 371-6400 or mrz@zwick-law.com, to schedule a legal consultation and free case analysis.  At Zwick Law, we’re always here for you.[1]

 

[1] Disclaimer: The use of the Internet, Facebook and/or any other form of social media communication with the firm or any individual member of the firm does not establish an attorney-client relationship.  Time-sensitive information should be directed immediately to the office of Zwick Law at (814) 371-6400.

 

Common Estate Planning Mistakes & How To Avoid The Pitfalls

Creating an estate plan is the best way to pass property and other assets to your loved ones in a manner that you believe is best suited for you and your family.  Unfortunately, the majority of adults in the United States do not have a will, and those who do often make serious mistakes that render the will invalid or impractical.  If you want to be sure that your final wishes are executed properly, you must spend time creating and updating an estate plan with an experienced attorney who can provide accurate and reliable legal advice.  If you attempt to create and implement such an important legal document, without the proper assistance, you increase your chances of making one of these four common estate planning mistakes.

Review Your Estate Plan to Ensure That it is Up to Date

The majority of people who invest time and money to create a last will and testament and other estate planning instruments do not properly review their estate plan to ensure that it is up to date and applicable to changed situations and circumstances.  It is possible that your last will and testament may not require changes over the years; however, it is very likely that major life events and changes in circumstances may be overlooked, which likely will create problems for your loved ones after you are gone. Those who neglect to update their estate plans throughout their lifetimes, often times accidentally omit after-born children and/or grandchildren; name people who predecease them; and/or choose a personal representative who they no longer trust.  The mere passage of time is reason enough to review your estate planning documents to ensure that these important documents remain applicable and coincide with your current intentions.

 Your Will Does Not Impact Non-Probate Assets, such as Life Insurance Policies

An asset that several folks maintain is a life insurance policy.  Life insurance policies ordinarily designate a primary beneficiary or beneficiaries – the person or persons who will receive all or some of a specified sum of money after the policyholder passes away – and a secondary beneficiary – in the event that the primary designee(s) predeceases the policyholder.  Typically, beneficiaries to these policies are spouses, children, siblings, and/or parents.  A person who has recently gotten divorced or who is estranged from a relative may no longer wish for that person to receive any part of a life insurance policy.  However, instead of updating the beneficiary designations with the life insurance company, and without consulting an experienced estate planning attorney, a policyholder sometimes names a recipient of the policy proceeds in their will.  Unbeknownst to some policyholders, life insurance companies are required to pay proceeds to the named beneficiary in the policy, even if the designation is contrary to the directives in one’s will.  So, while you need to update and review your last will and testament, you also need to review all non-probate assets, such as life insurance policies, annuities, and retirement accounts, to ensure that your beneficiary designations also remain applicable and coincide with your current intentions.

Keep a Detailed List of Your Assets with Your Important Estate Planning Documents

While leaving assets to family members and loved ones is thoughtful, if your loved ones do not know where these assets are located or how to find them, receiving an inheritance may turn into a nightmare.  Without a detailed list of information on your accounts, real and personal property, and other assets, your personal representative and beneficiaries likely will have to conduct their own search.  Not only is searching for assets very time consuming and often times frustrating, it also is possible that some assets will go undiscovered for years.  Keep a detailed list of your assets with your important estate planning documents, to ensure that all of your assets are passed on to your loved ones.

Name a Trustworthy and Reliable Personal Representative of Your Estate

The personal representative of your estate is the person who is responsible for paying your debts, filing your inheritance tax return, and distributing your assets to your named beneficiaries.  Being named an executor or executrix is considered an honor, but it also is a serious position that can be unbelievably time consuming.  Naming a child or relative simply because they are oldest, or perhaps the favorite, is not always the best idea.  If the person you name as the personal representative of your estate is disliked, not capable of doing the job, or not trusted by your beneficiaries and other loved ones, then your family could seek to have him or her removed from the position.  This is not only time consuming and expensive, it also can take its toll on your family for many years to come.

Get Answers to All of Your Questions – Contact Zwick Law

Estate planning is an important, proactive measure that you can take to preserve your legacy and ensure that your assets stay with and benefit your family after you are gone.  When you are ready to create or update your estate plan, consulting with an estate planning and estate administration attorney is highly beneficial.  The trusted attorneys at Zwick Law are available to help you determine the best ways to distribute your estate and protect your assets long into the future. Contact us today to schedule a free and confidential consultation at either our DuBois or Brookville office.

For questions relating to your estate planning needs, contact either C.J. Zwick or Matthew R. Zwick at (814) 371-6400.  At Zwick Law, we’re always here for you.[1]

 

 

[1] Disclaimer: The use of the Internet, Facebook and/or any other form of social media communication with the firm or any individual member of the firm does not establish an attorney-client relationship.  Time-sensitive information should be directed immediately to the office of Zwick Law at (814) 371-6400.

 

LEVEL THE PLAYING FIELD – TACTICS USED TO REDUCE OR DENY PERSONAL INJURY CLAIMS

After the occurrence of an accident, which results in personal injuries to you or a loved one, it is not unusual for a claims adjuster from a liability insurance carrier to contact you to express sympathy and offer assistance in a time of need.  While the adjuster’s friendliness and solicitude may seem legitimate, the insurance adjuster’s primary function is to save his employer (i.e., the liability insurance company) money by reducing or greatly diminishing the settlement of your claim.  The tricks and tactics that insurance adjusters use to reduce or deny claims have affected hundreds of people throughout the years—which is why it is very important that all accident victims learn to recognize some of the most commonly utilized methods employed by insurance carriers and claims adjusters.

Becoming fully aware of commonly known tricks and tactics may help you or your loved ones avoid making an error that could prove extremely damaging to a personal injury claim.

Take it Slow – Don’t Rush into a Personal Injury Settlement

In many instances, accident victims require numerous doctor visits, medical and psychological treatment and extended time off of work before the scope and extent of their injuries are fully recognized and appreciated.  As the scope and extent of medical care and treatment increase, so does the potential settlement value of your case.  The first trick that many claims adjusters may utilize to reduce the payout on your case, is to rush the settlement process in order to close your claim before you receive all of the medical care that you need and deserve.

Ensure that You Receive Full Compensation – Don’t Accept Deliberate Underpayments

A claims adjuster also may intentionally send you less insurance money than your injuries and necessary treatment warrant.  In the overwhelming majority of cases, receiving and accepting payment from a liability insurance company means that you intend to enter a full and final settlement of your claims.  In other words, payment from an insurance company for injuries caused by its insured, often times represents full and complete payment on your injury claim.  After you have deposited or cashed the check, you will not be able to request additional compensation in the future—even if you later discover the amount you received is not enough to cover your medical bills and other accident-related expenses.

Take it Slow, But Not too Slow – When is the Right Time to Settle?

Many claims adjusters know that being out of work, while simultaneously accumulating medical debt, can be very stressful and intimidating.  Adjusters often develop various methods to stall the claims process, knowing—or at least hoping—that the longer the process takes, the more likely you are to accept a lesser amount of money to settle your claim.  In other cases, an adjuster also may hope that stalling or delaying a claim will cause an injured party to overlook a statute of limitation deadline, which could have the legal effect of barring a monetary recovery on your injury claim forever.

Level the Playing FieldContact Zwick Law

Almost all insurance companies and adjusters want injured parties to avoid consulting with an experienced personal injury attorney—an attorney who will recognize their deceiving tricks and tactics.  The primary objective of a claims adjuster is to settle claims as inexpensively as possible, or even deny the claim in its entirety.  Throughout the settlement process, many adjusters will discourage you from consulting with an attorney, all while providing you with hope that they will work with you to settle the situation fairly (and, untimely, at a value much lower than you deserve).

If you or someone close to you is involved in an accident, the best thing to do is to contact a personal injury attorney immediately.  An experienced attorney, who is dedicated to being your advocate, will ensure that your claim is handled professionally, fully and fairly throughout the entire process – from injury to absolute compensation.  At Zwick Law, our experienced team takes pride in representing our clients diligently and aggressively through every stage of a claim.

With offices conveniently located in DuBois and Brookville, Pennsylvania, we are standing by to provide you with the peace of mind you deserve.  For questions concerning a personal injury claim, contact Matthew R. Zwick at (814) 371-6400 or mrz@zwick-law.com, to schedule a free legal consultation and case analysis.  At Zwick Law, we’re always here for you.[1]

 

[1] Disclaimer: The use of the Internet, Facebook and/or any other form of social media communication with the firm or any individual member of the firm does not establish an attorney-client relationship.  Time-sensitive information should be directed immediately to the office of Zwick Law at (814) 371-6400.

 

HOW TO PROPERLY HANDLE A PERSONAL INJURY CLAIM

The period immediately following an accident resulting in an injury is very stressful and often times overwhelming.  Lost wages, mounting medical debt, and the pain of an injury often combine, leaving a person desperate to find a resolution to an unfortunate situation.  While quickly settling an injury claim may seem like the easiest way to resolve problems caused by an accident, being overly eager to reach a quick settlement can leave an accident victim in an even worse predicament and with additional problems.  Being aware of the steps to properly and effectively handle an injury claim can increase your chances of avoiding crucial mistakes, while helping you obtain the compensation you deserve.

Should you automatically comply with all of the insurance claims adjuster’s requests?

The adjuster handling your claim usually presents himself as a friend or ally who is looking out for you and your best interests.  During the initial investigation of your claim, the claims adjuster will make various requests, such as asking you to sign authorizations for the release of confidential medical and employment information; asking you to provide recorded statements; and asking for other documentation related to your accident and injuries (e.g., videos, pictures, witness information, etc.).  Although adjusters will advise you that the requested information is always required to assess and/or to settle your claims, often times that is not completely true.

The claims adjuster will attempt to use the information that you provide to find ways to minimize or dismiss your claim.  In certain situations, you may need to provide some information and cooperate with the insurer’s investigation; however, this is not always required – selectively and strategically providing information does not mean that you will lose your claim.  Instead, taking a strategic and methodical approach usually increases your chances of walking away with all the compensation you deserve.

What happens if you miss medical appointments?

A person with no medical insurance or limited sick time from work may decide to stop going to follow-up doctor appointments before he is fully recovered and/or the treating physicians have officially released him from treatment.  Fear of lost wages and large medical bills can lead to a premature return to work, which can seriously impact your claim.  The medical appointments that you attend will further illustrate the extent of your injuries, and will establish a medical treatment pattern that shows the potential need for long-term care.  Missing scheduled and necessary medical appointments will likely lead to your claims adjuster dismissing or diminishing the severity of your injuries, which will significantly reduce the value and settlement of your case.

Should you question or challenge an adjuster’s valuation of your claim?

Claims adjusters working directly with an injured party may arbitrarily deny a claim without reviewing or receiving relevant claim-related documentation.  If, and when, this happens, too many people simply give up on the claim and do not pursue the compensation they deserve.  A person with little or no experience handling a personal injury, workers’ compensation, or medical malpractice claim will not know what steps to take to challenge or appeal the decision.  Insurance companies are experienced and manipulative, and they expect that accident victims will walk away from valid (and valuable) claims—saving the insurance company hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Do not stand alone – Zwick Law is here for you.

Even the most straightforward injury claim can quickly devolve into a nightmare, if not properly handled from the very early stages.  Remember, claims adjusters have years of experience negotiating claims, while the average person only deals with one or two injury claims in a lifetime.  The experienced personal injury and medical malpractice attorneys at Zwick Law understand how vital quality representation is to your claim.  We are prepared to review your situation and take over the time-consuming and stressful task of negotiating with the insurance company.

For questions relating to an injury claim, contact Matthew R Zwick, partner of Zwick Law, at (814) 371-6400 or mrz@zwick-law.com, to schedule a legal consultation and free case analysis.  At Zwick Law, we’re always here for you.[1]

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[1] Disclaimer: The use of the Internet, Facebook and/or any other form of social media communication with the firm or any individual member of the firm does not establish an attorney-client relationship.  Time-sensitive information should be directed immediately to the office of Zwick Law at (814) 371-6400.

 

Attorney C.J. Zwick has “Best Handle” on Oil & Gas Leases

Oil & Gas Law

DuBois, Pa. – After completing lease negotiations with a large oil and gas company, the Senior Landman for a Texas-based gas producer paid high praise to Attorney C.J. Zwick for his knowledge and understanding of oil and gas leases.  The Landman commended, “You have the best handle on the oil and gas lease out of any other Pennsylvania attorney who I’ve worked with yet.” [Senior Landman, Large Texas-Based Oil and Gas Company.]

Oil and gas leases are complex and nuanced instruments. No landowner should sign any oil-and-gas-related instrument, whether it’s an oil and gas lease, land-use agreement or right-of-way agreement, without consulting an experienced oil and gas law attorney at Zwick Law. Contact C.J. to negotiate the best lease terms to maximize the value of your natural gas rights.

C.J. Zwick, Esquire, can be reached at his office at (814) 371-6400; on his cell phone at (814) 771-0399; and by e-mail at cjz@zwick-law.com.