Tuesday, December 28, 2004

The Maximum Workers' Compensation Rate for 2005 is $716

Secretary of Labor and Industry Stephen Schmerin announced the 2005 maximum rates for workers' compensation and unemployment compensation in a press release today.

New Life Tables Published

Life tables for the year 2002 were published recently and are available. United States Life Tables, 2002 .pdf The most updated life table yields the most advantageous Sciarotta calculation.

There is a link on the left side of the page to annual life table updates from the National Center on Health Statistics.

The suggested citation is: Arias E. United States life tables, 2002. National vital statistics reports; vol 53 no 6. Hyattsville, Maryland: National Center for Health Statistics. 2004.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Commonwealth Court Outlines Burden of Proof in §306(b)(1) Modification Based on Current Wages of Fellow Employee

In a very well organized opinion in Verizon Pennsylvania, Inc. v. WCAB (Baun), the Commonwealth Court provided guidance on the modification of benefits under §306(b)(1) which provides an employe shall not receive more in compensation and wages combined than the current wages of a fellow employe in employment similar to that in which the injured employe was engaged at the time of injury. Although the Court held the Employer did not meet its threshold burden to demonstrate what similarly situated employees were making at the time of injury, the Court went on to clarify its interpretation of the remainder of any §306(b)(1) analysis.

The Court held the threshold burden is to establish the wages at the time of injury of the class of similarly situated employees. The Court stated a WCJ may elect to evaluate the wages of each employee in the class or rely on an average or median, as the WCJ's discretion directs.

The court further stated Maier's Bakery v. Workers' Comp. Appeal Bd. (Sandt), 751 A.2d 1208 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2000) does not require that the Employer must show economic distress caused wages to be reduced. The Court explained there is no such requirement in the statute.

Finally, the Court stated the only comparison to be made by the WCJ is whether the Claimant is currently receiving more in wages and compensation combined than the class of similarly situated employees. The Claimant had returned to work at modified duty, and there would be a figure that represents the Claimant's wages and compensation combined. Even if, as here, some employees in the class were currently making more than the Claimant's Average Weekly Wage, this fact does not necessarily enter into the comparison to be made between what the Claimant receives and the representative current wages of the class that the WCJ determines.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Commonwealth Court Holds Physical/Physical Injury Standard Can Still Apply to a Heart Attack Case

In J. Curren v. WCAB (City of Chester) the Commonwealth Court reversed an Order of the Workers' Compensation Appeal Board that held a mental stress causing physical injury standard of proof applies in a heart attack case. The Court accepted the Claimant's argument that compensation was awarded on a physical stress causing physical injury basis. The Court held the medical testimony credited by the Workers' Compensation Judge provided substantial evidence to support a physical stress causing physical injury standard of proof. Accordingly, the Claimant did not have to meet the heightened burden in a mental/physical case to show abnormal working conditions.

Monday, December 20, 2004

AFL-CIO Press Release Notes Proposed Reduction in W.C. Rates

Pennsylvania AFL-CIO President William M. George issued a press release in response to news of a proposed rate decrease from the Pennsylvania Compensation Rating Bureau. The press release highlights positive trends in job safety.

York Daily Record Series on Workers' Compensation

The York Daily Record is running a series on workers' compensation. Four articles have been printed to date. They are linked at the bottom of this article from today.

The articles begin with a discusssion of a specific case, then broaden into a discussion of Pennsylvania's statutory system and proposed changes of injured workers, their families, employers and insurers.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

WCRI to give Pennsylvania Briefing on January 19, 2005

The Workers' Compensation Research Institute will brief the newest results from the 5th Edition of the WCRI CompScope™ multistate benchmarks study, comparing workers' compensation system performance for Pennsylvania with 11 major states (California, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin) in Harrisburg on January 19, 2005.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Commonwealth Court Confirms Claimant Does Not Waive Timeliness Argument By Attending IRE

In Wellington Foods v. WCAB (Rice), the Claimant attended an IRE requested more than 60 days after payment of 104 weeks of total disability benefits. The Commonwealth Court rejected the Employer's argument the Claimant waived his objection to the timeliness of the IRE by attending the IRE.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Claimants Can Get a Print Out of Unemployment Compensation Paid On-Line

Claimants who receive unemployment compensation benefits receive a PIN number that allows them to access all their benefit information on-line. A Claimant can get a print out of unemployment compensation paid to establish the unemployment compensation credit against workers' compensation benefits. The URL is: https://www.pauc.state.pa.us/welcomebenefit.asp

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Commonwealth Court Confirms 104 Weeks for IRE Runs From First Date of Payment

In S. Ramseur v. WCAB (Wachovia Corp.), the Commonwealth Court held that where the Claimant was entitled to benefits on March 3, 2000, but didn't receive the first payment until August 3, 2000 (presumably a payment including back benefits), the 104 weeks provided for in Section 306(a.2) of the Act expires on August 3, 2002. This made the August 27, 2002 IRE request timely.