Not every workers’ compensation claim goes smoothly. In some cases, your employer or their insurance company may violate the Workers Compensation Act or its rules and regulations. If this happens, you are entitled to file a penalty petition to force compliance with the Act and perhaps seek additional compensation.
What is a Penalty Petition?
A penalty petition is a motion that an injured worker can file when their employer or the insurance company violates the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act. When workers’ compensation rules are violated, the injured workers are the ones who suffer. For this reason, penalty petitions exist to help the workers who are affected by the improper actions of their employers/insurers.
When a penalty petition is filed, it goes before the Workers’ Compensation Judge presiding over the claim. The judge will then make a ruling on the petition on a case-by-case basis. Even if the judge rules in the injured worker’s favor, monetary awards are not always granted. Sometimes, the outcome of a penalty petition will simply be that it forces the employer/carrier to comply with the laws.
Workers’ Compensation Violations
The most common workers’ compensation violations stem from the failure to make wage loss or medical bill payments. If wage loss checks regularly arrive late or not at all, a penalty petition may be in order to force timely payment. If medical bills are improperly denied, a penalty petition can also be used. Even if you are not seeking a monetary award, these petitions can be valuable tools.
There are many other bases for a Penalty Petition and they can include failing to follow notice requirements under the Act, failing to issue proper forms in a timely manner or abuse of those forms, or unilaterally ceasing to pay benefits without proper authority. The Act has very specific guidelines that employers and insurers must adhere to.
Penalty Awards for Employees
Awards received through penalty petitions can be for up to 50% of the amount owed. For example, if the insurer unreasonably refuses to pay for a specific medical treatment, the award can be up to 50% of the cost of that treatment. Or, if wage loss checks are regularly late, the award can be up to 50% of the value of the late checks.
The percentage associated with the award depends on the severity of the violation in question. A 50% award means that the violation was particularly egregious. A more common award amount would be around 10% of what is owed. The percentage is at the discretion of the trial judge.
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.