DO I NEED MY DOCTOR TO TESTIFY FOR MY PENNSYLVANIA WORKERS’ COMPENSATION CASE?
The simple answer is maybe. It depends on the length and severity of your injury as well whether the injury was obvious. An obvious injury has been found to be one where an employee is doing something at work that “requires force or strain and pain is immediately experienced at the point of force or strain.” Northwest Med.Ctr. WCAB (Cornmesser), 880 A2nd 753 (Pa.Cmwlth. 2005) . The best approach, however, is to secure a medical opinion even if the injury is “obvious.”
Your medical evidence can be either by report or by deposition. A report can be used if it is corroborated by other competent evidence of record. When the Workers’ compensation Act was amended by Act 57, reports were allowed in cases exceeding 52 weeks of disability unless the opposing party objects to the use of reports. This is known as the “Walker Rule”. In cases with less than 52 weeks of disability, a report can be admitted as long as weekly checks stop after 52 weeks. However, even if your wage loss is less than 52 weeks, medical benefits can continue beyond 52 weeks if you still require treatment for your work related injury. A report is generally a less expensive option than a deposition.
As a general rule, in order to meet your burden of proof, the doctor’s opinion must be “within a reasonable degree of medical certainty.” Case law has found that that phrase means certainty to an 80% level of confidence. If you doctor says that you “probably” sustained a work related injury or “most likely” sustained a work related injury, that will not be enough to win your case. The doctor’s opinion must also establish a causal connection between the injury and disability. Disability, as defined under Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act, means “wage loss.” Therefore it’s not enough to say that you sustained a work related injury, your doctor will also have to offer an opinion to a reasonable degree of medical certainty that your disability (wage loss) was caused by the work related injury. Doctor’s depositions can be very expensive and not all doctors are interested in testifying so it is critical if you need to submit medical evidence that you and your attorney can confirm that your doctor will support your claim and that their testimony will hold up under cross examination and the scrutiny of the Judge.
If you have questions regarding whether your medical evidence is enough to support your claim for Pennsylvania workers’ compensation benefits, you should discuss your case with an experienced Pennsylvania workers’ compensation attorney.