Facts about workers' compensation in Pennsylvania.
1. You don't need an attorney (but you probably should have one). The Pennsylvania Workers' Compensation Act was written for the benefit of the injured worker. The idea was that the injured worker could appear before a referee (now a workers' compensation judge) and argue his case without the need of incurring great expenses. Of course, when you deal with the government and the courts, things never turn out the way they were intended. There are certain elements you have to prove, and they may change from hearing to hearing and case to case. There are certain experts that may need to testify on your behalf. And then there is the language... words that have one meaning in everyday life have a different meaning in workers' compensation. The interpretation of the Act is always subject to review by the courts.
So.... you could probably represent yourself if you have the time and energy. Just like you could perform your own dentistry. But isn't it better to let it to people who know the law and deal with it regularly?
2. There is no fee unless you win your case. This isn't a case of attorneys being generous; it is the law.
3. You never get what you deserve. If you are injured, you hurt all the time and it has an impact on every aspect of your daily life. Workers' compensation in Pennsylvania is only designed to replace lost wages and cover medical expenses. You don't get benefits for pain and suffering. Your compensation rate is dependent on your earnings. A herniated disc in one person may be "worth" more than that same injury in a person who earns less.
4. Fees are negotiable. This is one that they don't want you to know. The courts have established that a 20% fee agreement (the attorney gets 20% of your benefits) is reasonable as a matter of law. There is no law that says an attorney cannot accept less than 20%. (Hint... you may want to contact me).
5. If the insurance company wants to settle your claim, you should still probably have an attorney. Again, you don't need one and they will want a fee agreement, but an attorney knows the tricks that insurance companies try to pull and may be able to negotiate a better settlement.
6. Insurance companies exist for the benefit of their clients and their investors. To that extent, they may attempt to "play games" with your benefits, your medical bills, and your prescriptions. An attorney will know how to deal with this.
If you have any questions, feel free to drop me a note on my contact page.