An employer or their workers’ compensation insurance company will file a Termination Petition to permanently cease all workers’ compensation benefits if they believe an injured worker has fully recovered from an injury or illness, and is able to return to work. A Termination Petition is exactly what it sounds like: the employer is asking permission to stop paying benefits to the worker. Read more about the possibility of terminated benefits here.
In the Termination Petition process, the employer has the burden of proving full recovery. The worker may then put forth his or her own evidence to refute the employer’s claim of full recovery.
Often, a Termination Petition comes after the employer sends the injured worker to an Independent Medical Examination (IME). An IME is a visit to a doctor, chosen by the employer, to determine the extent and causation of a worker’s injuries. After the examination, the IME doctor will prepare a report for the employer, detailing their opinions regarding what injuries the worker sustained, the cause of those injuries, whether the worker has recovered and whether the worker may return to work.
If the IME doctor determines that the worker’s injury is the natural progression of a pre-existing condition or that the worker is fully recovered, the employer will file a Termination Petition. After the petition is filed, there will soon be a hearing in front of a Pennsylvania workers’ compensation judge. The employer will have to present its evidence of full recovery, including the IME doctor’s report and live testimony subject to cross-examination. Then the worker will present evidence to contradict the claim of full recovery, which will usually include one or more of the worker’s treating doctors.
It is important not to ignore a Termination Petition. If you do not respond to the Termination Petition, the employer will be able to terminate your benefits. Once your benefits are terminated you have three years to file for reinstatement. To reinstate your benefits, you must prove that your present disability has re-occurred or significantly worsened and that the present disability is related to the original work injury.
The employer must have a reasonable basis to contest any petition that the injured employer brings. Even where the employer accepts the injured worker’s claim initially, they may choose to challenge a petition seeking to add injuries to the claim or any petition filed by the injured worker. In that case, the employer is again responsible for proving that they have a reasonable basis to contest.
The workers’ compensation judge makes the determination on reasonableness, and the Workers’ Compensation Act gives the judges a great deal of leeway in making that determination.
It is important to note that attorney’s fees are not penalties. Typically, if an employer violates the Workers’ Compensation Act, a worker may file a Penalty Petition to seek recovery for the violation. With an award of attorney’s fees, the employer is not necessarily violating the Act, they just lacked sufficient evidence to prove their case.
Have you recently been injured on the job and are having difficulties with your worker’s compensation benefits? If so, contact Calhoon and Kaminsky P.C., at 1-877-291-9675 for answers to your questions.