Governor Wolf Suspends Portions of the Workers’ Compensation Act
Last month, as part of a greater effort to reduce the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the state’s workers’ compensation system, Governor Wolf suspended the notarization requirement for employers who suspend or modify an employee’s benefits. For help determining how these changes could affect your own work injury claim, please contact an experienced Pennsylvania COVID-19 workers’ compensation claim lawyer who can advise you.
Suspending Section 413
Under the changes made last month by Pennsylvania’s governor, employers and their insurers are now permitted to unilaterally suspend an employee’s weekly wage loss benefits after that employee returns to work, without first obtaining a notarized affidavit, but only:
- If the employee in question is earning the same (or higher) amount in wages that he or she was earning prior to the injury; and
- If they comply with all other suspension-related requirements.
Before this change went into effect, insurance companies could only suspend an employee’s benefits (when an individual returned to work at prior or increased earnings) after:
- Filing Form LIBC-761, a Notification of Suspension or Modification; and
- Having their signatures notarized at the time of signing.
It’s important to note, however, that as of now, this is the only major change to the Workers’ Compensation Act, which means that employers and their workers’ comp insurers are still required to comply with the other portions of the law relating to benefit suspension. Employers must still, for example, mail a written notification of modification or suspension to injured employees, as well as the Department of Labor and Industry within seven days of the date that benefits were suspended or modified. Similarly, workers’ comp claimants are still allowed to contest a suspension of their benefits, but only if they properly file a challenge by:
- Requesting a challenge on the appropriate form; and
- Filing the challenge within 21 days of receiving the forms from the insurer.
If a suspension is properly contested, an employee can then request that a workers’ compensation judge review the employer or insurer’s decision. These hearings must be held within 21 days of the employee’s initial challenge.
Furthermore, employees who do not challenge an insurer’s notification of suspension before this deadline, will be presumed to have admitted to the return of work and receipt of the same amount in wages. Once this deadline has passed, the insurer’s notification of suspension will actually be deemed to have the same legally binding effect as a fully executed agreement.
Contact an Experienced COVID-19 Workers’ Compensation Attorney
Whether the governor’s suspension of the workers’ comp notarization requirement will be temporary or permanent remains to be seen, but in the meantime, the change could have an effect on the claims of thousands of Pennsylvania employees. To learn more about the steps being taken by lawmakers to address the impact of COVID-19 on the workers’ compensation system, please call experienced COVID-19 workers’ comp lawyer, Keith Figured at the Figured Law Firm today. A member of our team can be reached by calling 570-954-9299 or by completing and submitting one of our firm’s online contact forms.