If you suffered an injury on the job, you may have heard of vocational rehabilitation. Your employer or their insurer may have mentioned it in relation to your claim.
At first, vocational rehabilitation might sound like a good thing for injured workers. The term conjures up images of rehabilitation counselors training workers for new jobs. But in Pennsylvania, the reality of vocational rehabilitation is far from this ideal.
In theory, vocational rehabilitation helps both injured workers and insurers equally. Injured workers would learn new skills to help them gain employment. And insurers could reduce their costs thanks to the worker’s new source of income.
Unfortunately, that is not how it works in practice in Pennsylvania. At present, the beneficiaries of vocational rehabilitation are the insurance companies and employers. In most cases, the injured worker does not benefit.
Currently, vocational services often involve identifying jobs the injured workers might be able to perform; but, that is where the insurers stop. Once they identify these jobs, they argue that the injured worker’s wage loss benefits should be stopped or reduced.
Insurers will make this argument for two reasons. First, they want to stop paying for your wage loss benefits. Alternatively, they want to pressure you into settling your claim, perhaps for less than it is worth.
Considering how insurers use “vocational services” you may be wondering what your rights are. Once a vocational counselor contacts you, it becomes a lose-lose situation for workers.
If you blindly participate, you are only setting yourself up to lose your benefits. And if you refuse to take part, the insurer can still file to have a judge order you to participate. Failure to comply with that order can lead to your benefits being stopped.
At this point, it may feel like there is nothing you can do to protect your benefits. But, all hope is not lost just yet.
If you did not contact an attorney immediately following your injury, now is the time. There are some cases in which a workers’ compensation attorney is not needed. These tend to involve minor injuries and limited time off work.
But, if your injury is serious or you are out of work for an extended period of time, hiring a lawyer is a good idea. These are the kinds of cases that are expensive for insurers, and so they will be seeking to put an end to your benefits.
Hiring an experienced workers’ compensation attorney is the best step you can take. The insurance company has lawyers on its side. So you should have a lawyer as well.
Any time you receive a notice from your employer or their insurance about your case, talk to your lawyer. There are many workers’ compensation forms and they can be confusing if you do not know what you are looking at.
The last thing you want to do is sign a form that harms your claim for compensation. An experienced attorney can help you navigate the notices and forms you receive.
My name is Geoffrey Hillsberg, and I have been solely practicing workers’ compensation law in the State of Pennsylvania since 1995. If you have been injured on the job, please contact my law office today. I will fight for your right to compensation after a workplace injury.
The advice offered above is general in nature and may not be applicable to every case. Consultation with an attorney is highly recommended. Reliance on this advice does not represent the formation of an attorney-client relationship in the absence of a fee agreement with Mr. Hillsberg.
Fill out the form with a brief description of your situation or call me at (610) 566-0600 and I’ll be in touch to schedule a free consultation.