After you make a workers’ compensation claim in Pennsylvania, you will often receive a “Notice of Compensation Payable”.
This means that the workers’ compensation insurance company has accepted liability for your claim—at least in part. However, just because your claim has been “accepted” by the insurance company doesn’t mean you’re in the clear.
Average Weekly Wage and Weekly Compensation Rate
The first thing you should check is to ensure that your “average weekly wage” and “weekly compensation rate” are correct on the second page of your Notice of Compensation payable. Insurance companies frequently rush to issue these documents and get your wages incorrect. Sometimes, when calculating your Average Weekly Wage (AWW), they forget to include overtime, bonuses, et cetera, and significantly underpay injured workers. Sometimes, they simply put the wrong number in. Please note that your average weekly wage should be based upon your gross earnings (before tax), not your net earnings (after tax); this is a strangely common mistake that insurance adjusters make more often than they’ll admit—and it seriously affects your income!
Also ensure that the “Compensation rate” is correct based upon this year’s earnings tables of the statewide average weekly wage, put out every year by the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry. These tables can be viewed here and dictate what percentage of your average weekly wage to which you’re entitled after a work injury.
If you think you’re being underpaid, you only have a limited amount of time to hire to hire a workers’ compensation lawyer to file documents and prove you’re entitled to more money.
The next thing you should do if you receive a “Notice of Compensation Payable” is to turn to the second page and make sure the insurance company didn’t check the box that says “medical only, no loss of wages,” as seen in this picture. This is only the appropriate box for the insurance adjuster to check if you aren’t missing any work as a result of your work injury.
All too often, insurance companies will issue “Medical Only Notices of Compensation Payable” when they should be paying your wage loss as well. If you receive one of these medical-only documents, your claim really hasn’t been accepted at all and your lost wages will not be paid. If you receive a medical-only document and you are actually losing wages (or think you might lose wages down the road, perhaps after surgery), you should contact a workers’ compensation lawyer immediately, as there is a limited amount of time in which a proper workers’ compensation claim can be filed. If you received a medical-only Notice of Compensation Payable and the insurance adjuster is paying your wages, you need an attorney to correct this mistake immediately, as it allows the insurance company to unilaterally cease your benefits at any time without your doctor’s or the court’s approval.
Do I need a lawyer if I’m being paid workers’ compensation benefits?
Should you hire a lawyer if you receive a “Notice of Compensation Payable” and are being paid workers’ compensation benefits? The answer is “maybe.” If you sustained a minor injury, don’t need surgery, are only off work for a few weeks, and are being paid the correct wages, you might not need a lawyer to take care of things for you. However, if your injury was serious, you needed a surgery, or if you’re going to be out of work for a prolonged period of time, you should at least speak to a lawyer regarding your rights and responsibilities with a free consultation. Many injured workers choose to proactively get one of our workers’ compensation lawyers involved before there’s a problem with their benefits, because the realize that our services are free until there’s a problem (and free if there is never a problem or a settlement). Because our contingent-fee ONLY kicks in if we have to go to court to defend your benefits or if we help you negotiate a lump-sum settlement, it doesn’t cost you anything to hire one of our lawyers while your benefits are being paid. This allows us to advise you before there is a problem, prevent problems, and ensure your rights are protected such that the insurance company doesn’t force you back to work before you and your doctor think you’re ready.
What should you do if you receive a Notice of Compensation Payable?
Pennsylvania workers’ compensation law is complicated and notoriously difficult to navigate on your own. After reading this article, it’s a good idea to at least schedule a free consultation with one of our Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Attorneys such that we can go over your specific case’s details and help you decide whether or not you need a lawyer. We’re located in Erie, Pennsylvania, and Smethport, Pennsylvania, and represent injured workers throughout Northwestern Pennsylvania.