Victims of chronic pain may be eligible for workers’ compensation in PA

Many workers in Harrisburg may fall victim to chronic pain, or pain that persists for at least 12 weeks, at some point. This pain can have myriad causes, according to the National Institutes of Health, and finding an effective treatment is often challenging. Unfortunately, chronic pain can be highly debilitating without proper management. In addition to physical restrictions, victims may experience sleep problems, exhaustion, depression and other emotional changes.

In some cases, chronic pain may be severe enough to completely prevent a person from working. If the pain developed because of a person's job or work-related injuries, the person may qualify to receive workers' compensation benefits. However, establishing eligibility for these benefits may prove challenging.

Linking chronic pain to work

The Pennsylvania Workers' Compensation Act considers injuries or illnesses compensable if they arise in the course of employment. State law makes an exception for work-related injuries involving intoxication, illegal activities and intentional self-harm. Under these criteria, chronic pain may qualify for benefits. However, victims must first prove that the condition is work-related.

If the underlying cause of chronic pain is unclear, securing benefits may be difficult. However, many workers may experience chronic pain due to previous workplace injuries. Some injuries that may result in chronic pain include:

In these cases, a worker may be able to support his or her claim by documenting the original injury. Then, with the help of a medical professional, the worker can establish the existence and debilitating nature of the pain.

Under state law, employees must generally report work-related injuries to employers within 120 days, or compensation is not available. However, in cases involving occupational injury, workers may file claims within three years of the date that the condition began. Therefore, the filing deadlines for claims involving chronic pain may depend on the nature of the underlying injury and when a doctor gives a diagnosis and says it is caused by work.

Benefits available to injured workers

Victims of chronic pain may qualify to receive payments for medical care and lost wages. If chronic pain continues to prevent a person from working, the person may qualify for partial disability or temporary total disability payments. These disability benefits can cover about two-thirds of lost wages, although state law establishes maximum caps.

Victims of chronic pain may also experience numerous non-financial losses, such as pain and suffering. If a worker developed chronic pain due to the actions of a third party, other recourse may be available. These third parties could include equipment manufacturers, property owners and drivers. Unfortunately, workers' compensation cannot provide any benefits to address a person's non-financial losses.

Understanding legal rights and remedies

Workers' compensation claims involving less objectively obvious conditions, including chronic pain, are often complex. Sometimes, victims may lose out on compensation because they do not fully understand their rights or the claims process. To mitigate this risk, victims of chronic pain should consider consulting with a workers' compensation attorney. An attorney may be able to offer needed advice and assistance during the claim process.