The knowledgeable and experienced attorneys at Powell Law may help any claimant for workers compensation benefits comply with all of the necessary requirements of the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act (the “Act”).
Injured workers who successfully prove they are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits in Pennsylvania continue to collect benefits until the occurrence of certain events. It is these events that terminate or suspend the payment of benefits. These events include a full recovery from the work-related injuries, a return to work at the pre-injury wage rate, leaving the labor market for reasons that are unrelated to the work injury, and incarceration.
The Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act (Act) in § 306(a.1) states, “Nothing in this act shall require payment of compensation under clause (a) or (b) for any period during which the employe(e) is incarcerated after a conviction . . . “
It is interesting that the language of the statute includes the phrase “after a conviction.” Recently, the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania decided the case of Sadler v. Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board (Philadelphia Coca-Cola), where an injured worker was receiving workers’ compensation benefits and charged with a crime. Because he could not afford bail, he was incarcerated. Technically, his incarceration did not come “after a conviction.” He pled guilty and was sentenced to time served of 525 days. He was then released from incarceration but never served any time “after a conviction.”
Nevertheless, the employer’s insurance carrier filed a Petition for Suspension, alleging that by pleading guilty, the time already served was “after a conviction,” for which a credit should be given. The petition was granted, benefits were suspended, and the Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board (WCAB) modified the decision to allow a credit against future benefits.
The Commonwealth Court disagreed and reversed the suspension of benefits. Based on the language of the Act, the injured worker served no time “after a conviction.” Rather, he served time because he could not afford bail. Simply because he was later credited for “time served” after the plea and conviction, did not change the facts.
The Pennsylvania Court believed that if the legislature wanted the law to have this effect, then it would have written the law to accomplish this but chose otherwise. The Court used a Rhode Island statute as an example which provided, “an injured worker is not entitled to WC benefits ‘for any period during which the employee was imprisoned as a result of a conviction of a criminal offense,’ which ‘includes credit for time-served, such that the time served becomes a period served as the result of a conviction.’” The Commonwealth Court believed it wrong to write this language into a statute that did not contain this language in the first place. The suspension of benefits was lifted.
Cases involving the termination of benefits may be complicated. If you believe that your claim for workers’ compensation benefits was wrongfully terminated, consult with a qualified workers’ compensation attorney at Powel Law. Call Powell Law at (570) 961-0777. The consultation is FREE!