In Pennsylvania workers’ compensation law, there are important deadlines for the defense to be aware of, which apply to both claimants and employers.
I’ll start with deadlines that apply to our side.
1) Yellow Freight - This rule, named after a case in this jurisdiction, made the Yellow Freight company famous, or infamous, depending on your perspective. The rule, simply stated: File an Answer to a Claim Petition timely (in 20 days), otherwise the allegations of the Petition are admitted, at least up to the last date the Answer could have been timely filed. Simple way to avoid the Yellow Freight sanction: make sure insureds and carriers monitor their mail carefully for notices of assignment, and have these immediately sent to defense counsel.
2) Response to a claim of injury – Some Bureau of Workers’ Compensation document, i.e., Notice of Denial or document accepting injury (NCP or Agreement for Compensation), must be issued within 21 days of the employer’s notice of an alleged work injury. After an injury is reported by the employee to the employer, an employer’s report of injury must be filed with the Bureau within seven (7) days, regardless of whether the employer or carrier feels the reported injury is legitimate. Note: This document is not admissible against an employer in proceedings before a WCJ.
3) Filing of Termination Petition based on physician’s affidavit of recovery – Petition must be filed within 21 days of exam upon which affidavit is based, in order to get special supersedeas hearing. Note: As a practical matter, supersedeas is rarely granted even under supposedly more favorable (for employers) provision of WCA for special supersedeas hearings.
4) Scheduling of IME – 45 days from date of first hearing. Note: Rules appears to be ambiguous as to whether 45 day deadline is for scheduling the IME appointment or the actual exam. Judges tend to give us leeway and are satisfied if exam is scheduled within 45 days of first hearing.
Deadlines for Claimants:
1) Notice of injury to employer – Injury must be reported to the employer within 120 days, otherwise claim is barred.
2) Statute of limitations – Claimant must file claim petition within 3 years from date of injury. Note: Statute of limitations can be tolled if judge finds claimant was “lulled” into not filing petition.
3) Treatment with panel providers – Not a deadline, actually, but a mandatory requirement for claimants to treat with panel providers for 90 days after date of first medical treatment following a work injury. Note: There is a general feeling that the increase in the Act from 30 to 90 days for panel treatment has significantly cut down on litigation brought by claimants, i.e., claim petitions, and therefore it is included on this list.
4) Modify Supplemental Agreement containing error(s) – No deadline here. A workers’ compensation judge can modify a Supplemental Agreement at any time, “if it be proved that the agreement was in any material respect incorrect.” I bring this up because as a practical matter SAs can sometimes contain errors, especially regarding dates and wages.
What It Means to You
The above list is a synopsis of just several of the deadlines facing litigants in this jurisdiction, i.e., this list is by no means exhaustive. I chose what I view as some of the most important, and frequent, scenarios likely to be encountered in the course of litigation.