How Often Workers’ Compensation Cases Go to Trial (2023 Data)
Work injuries can have devastating impacts on people’s ability to work and provide for their families. They can cause uncertainty and, in some cases, lead to lifelong disability. Many people who suffer work injuries have many questions about what to expect. For example, they may wonder, How often do workers’ comp cases go to trial? They may have concerns that a trial will take a long time, postponing their ability to get the financial help they need.
Fortunately, most workers’ compensation cases settle rather than going to trial. But sometimes, going to a trial (called a hearing) may represent the best opportunity the worker has to receive a fair compensation package. In that case, even if it may take longer, a hearing may be in their best interest.
At Krasno Krasno & Onwudinjo, we know how hard it is to be injured on the job. You depend on your ability to work to provide for your family. Now that you’re injured, you rely on receiving workers’ compensation benefits to get the financial support you need. Our job is to work as efficiently and effectively as possible to get you the help you deserve under the law so you can focus on healing and moving forward. Our Pennsylvania workers’ compensation lawyers are here to fight for you, as our firm has for over 300,000 workers since 1936.
How Long Do Most Workers’ Comp Settlements Take?
Unfortunately, there is no average or set amount of time that workers’ compensation cases take to proceed to a successful settlement. Each case is different, and even when workers have similar injuries (say, a torn back muscle), it can impact their ability to work in varying ways. Furthermore, factors may be present that take longer to sort out than others. For example, if one worker has a preexisting injury, but another does not, it may take more time to separate the impact of the preexisting injury from the current injury. These and other factors can significantly impact how long workers comp settlements take.
Even though each case may take different amounts of time to reach a settlement, some Pennsylvania law places restrictions on timeframes for filing documents. For example, workers typically must report the injury to their employer using the approved form within 21 days after the accident or after discovering the condition. But in some cases, workers can take up to 120 days. Further, after receiving a denial of benefits, they have up to three years to file a claim petition. Again, because of the variable nature of injuries and work accidents, the timeframe of each can significantly vary.
Do All Workers’ Compensation Cases End in a Settlement?
Not all Pennsylvania workers’ compensation cases end in a settlement. Ideally, you, your attorney, your employer, and your insurance company will be able to agree on a fair assessment of your injuries and the impact on your ability to work. But employers and their insurance providers frequently resist paying employees what they deserve under the law.
Fortunately, injured workers can elect to proceed to a hearing (also called a trial) before a Workers’ Compensation Judge at the Office of Adjudication to present their case. Doing so may be advantageous for the injured worker and increase their chance of receiving a fair settlement. Workers can choose to have an attorney represent them at the hearing, or they can represent themselves. Because of what is at stake and the technicalities involved in participating in a hearing, it is advisable for employees to have legal representation to assist them during the hearing.
Do All Workers’ Comp Cases Go to Trial?
Not all workers’ compensation cases go to trial. In most cases, the worker can settle their claim with their employer and their employer’s workers’ compensation insurance provider. Workers are encouraged to speak to an attorney about their rights and whether a proposed settlement is fair.
Insurance companies usually look for ways to save money despite what the claims adjuster or representative may say to the injured worker. One way they do that is by offering low settlement proposals to workers. While the offer may seem attractive at first glance, especially to workers who depend on the funds, it may be best to talk to an attorney. They can review the case and calculate a fair settlement in the situation.
How Often Do Workers’ Comp Cases Go to Trial?
Most workers’ compensation cases settle without the need for a hearing, but that does not mean that hearings do not happen or are not necessary in some cases to secure fair compensation on behalf of the employee. According to the Pennsylvania Bureau of Workers’ Compensation, in 2021 (the recent year for which updated data is available), there were 161,592 reportable on-the-job injuries. Of those reportable injuries, approximately 35,599 petitions (representing 22% of the total injuries) were assigned to Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Judges.
What Percentage of Workers’ Comp Cases Go to Trial?
According to the most recent 2021 statistics published by the Pennsylvania Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (link provided above), approximately 5% (or 8,611) of the total reportable injuries resulted in employees filing a claim petition to take their case to trial.
There are other scenarios where a claim may go to trial, such as if the employer’s insurance company or the employer seeks to terminate or modify benefits if they feel the worker no longer needs the original amount of benefits. For example, employers may make this argument if the worker has not fully recovered from the injury but can return to work and perform modified or light-duty tasks. Of course, the worker has a right to participate in the trial and argue against the change in benefits or present an alternative benefits structure.
What Happens at a Workers’ Compensation Trial?
A workers’ compensation trial (or final hearing) is a critical part of the case. Before the hearing, the parties submit or contribute to the written record of the case and send it to the Workers’ Compensation Judge assigned to it. The evidence they may file includes medical records, receipts for payments, witness statements, photographs, and, if possible, video footage of the accident. Additionally, the parties may prepare written arguments stating their position about the case and arguing for or against the benefits claim.
At the hearing, the injured worker, their attorney, their employer, a representative of their employer’s insurance provider, and their lawyer appear to present their case. The injured worker and their attorney will argue in favor of the worker receiving benefits. To support their claim, they will question witnesses and give legal arguments. The opposing party will do the same in favor of denying the claim for benefits.
The judge may ask additional questions or request more information before, during, or, in some cases, after the hearing. Sometimes, they may require the parties to participate in mandatory mediation, at which point the parties may decide to settle the claim instead. If the parties do not settle or mediate the case, the judge issues a final determination about the benefits claim. Either party can file an appeal within 20 days after the judge’s decision is filed.
Why Is My Workers’ Comp Case Going to Trial?
A workers’ compensation case may go to trial for many reasons. The most common cause is that the injured worker’s employer’s insurance provider denied the claim for benefits and refused to pay. Alternatively, they may agree to pay benefits but offer far too little to cover the worker’s expenses. Injured employees can file a claim petition to have a Workers’ Compensation Judge hear the evidence for and against the benefits claim and make a final decision.
Other reasons why the case may go to a hearing are if someone (typically the employer or their insurance company) files a petition to modify, suspend, or terminate benefits. This might occur if the insurance company or the employer thinks that the employee does not need benefits (or the same amount of support) as they did before because the employee is receiving workers’ compensation and returns to work. Another reason a case may go to a hearing is to seek a review of proposed medical treatments.
Contact a Workers’ Compensation Attorney at Krasno Krasno & Onwudinjo
When you suffer a work injury, your priorities are getting better and returning to work. To do that, you depend on workers’ compensation benefits to pay for your medical expenses and lost wages so you can take the steps necessary to move forward. Our team helps make this possible.
We focus our practice on helping injured workers receive workers’ compensation and social security disability benefits under Pennsylvania law. For over 85 years, the firm has faithfully fought for those in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and surrounding areas. We have 12 offices throughout Pennsylvania and have helped over 300,000 injured workers throughout our decades of service.
If you were injured on the job, contact a member of our team today by calling 844-243-4843 or by contacting us online.