At some point, unless your case settles, you will be called to testify in support of a claim petition for workers' compensation benefits. I've written a chapter about winning through effective testimony in my free book, The Wounded Worker: Inside the Pennsylvania Workers' Comp Maze. The following outlines the typical testimony you must present in a claim petition, in which you are seeking a ruling by the Judge that you suffered a disabling work injury and are entitled to benefits.
You must prepare to present testimony which supports your claim of injury. You may think your memory is excellent, but if you are like most people, you are wrong. Gather your thoughts. Review your medical records. Recall what happened. Read my chapter on winning! The testimony will be presented before a workers' compensation judge in an informal atmosphere. A court reporter will be present and will transcribe all of the testimony. An attorney representing the insurance company will also be present, and the attorney will be allowed to ask you questions about your injury. Beware of any attorney who does not prepare you before you testify: lazy lawyers lose cases.
The following is a discussion of some of the areas that will be covered in your testimony:
1. Employment History. You will be asked regarding who your employer is, when you were first employed, and your job duties. The questions concerning your job duties will focus on the physical requirements of your job. Specifically, the judge will want to know if your job requires you to lift heavy objects and, if so, how much those objects weigh. You will be asked whether your job requires you to spend all or most of your day on your feet, and whether your job requires you to bend, twist, push, pull, squat, climb ladders, or do other physical activities. If you job is primarily sedentary, you may be asked whether your job requires you to make constant repetitive motions of your upper extremities. You must be prepared to give a detailed description of your job duties to the judge.
2. Description of Injury. You will be asked to describe in detail how your injury occurred. You also have to give the date and time of the injury.
3. Notice of Injury. Under Pennsylvania law, you must give your employer notice of your injury within 120 days of the date that it occurred. In some circumstances, the time will be extended to 120 days from the date you knew or should have known that your injury was work related. To receive wage loss benefits from the first day of injury, you must have provided notice within 21 days of the date the injury occurred or, in some circumstances, 21 days from the date that you knew or should have known that your condition was work related. Please note that it is not sufficient for you to testify that you told them on the job that you were injured. You must be prepared to testify that you or someone on your behalf informed your employer of your injury and its relationship to employment. It is not sufficient if you testify that you told your supervisor that you were injured, if you are not prepared to testify that you gave sufficient information to your supervisor so that the supervisor knew that you were injured on the job. For more information regarding notice of a Pennsylvania work injury, click here.
4. Symptoms. You will be asked to describe specifically the symptoms which resulted from your work injury. You will be asked why these symptoms keep you from performing your job duties. You may be asked if symptoms interfere with your ability to sleep and perform your normal everyday activities. The focus of the testimony, however, will be on how the symptoms prevent you from performing your job duties.
5. Medical Treatment. You will be asked for the names and addresses of all medical providers who have treated you in connection with your work injuries. You will be asked to describe the nature of the treatment provided and whether the treatment has helped you. Please note that if you are receiving medical treatment which is not helping you, you should discontinue that treatment and try some other type of treatment. Workers' compensation judges are not impressed by testimony from individuals who have received steady treatment for extended periods of time and claim that the treatment provided no benefit at all. If you have not improved at all, and your condition has gotten worse, it is perfectly acceptable for you to say so. However, you must have a good explanation for why you are continuing to receive physical therapy, chiropractic care, acupuncture and the like. Getting temporary relief is an adequate reason for getting such treatment.
6. Wages. You are entitled to receive wage loss benefits based on an analysis of wages from all sources of employment. Accordingly, if you were working for more than one employer, those wages will be taken into account.
You will be expected to have wage stubs for all of your employers for the one-year period prior to the date of your work injury. Unless you provide your attorney with wage stubs or other proof of wages for the one-year period prior to the date of injury, we will have to rely on a calculation made by your employer as to your average weekly wage. Please gather needed necessary information immediately and forward this information to our office.
7. Dates of Disability. You must be prepared to testify regarding the exact dates that you have missed in connection with your work injury.
8. Health Insurance. If your health insurer is paying your medical bills, you must tell this to the court.
9. Medical Testimony. Except under extraordinary circumstances, you must present medical evidence in support of your injury. If you have lost less than 52 weeks of wages as a result of your injury, you may submit a medical report from your doctor in support of your claim. If you use a medical report, however, you will be entitled to maximum of 52 weeks of wages loss benefits. To recover benefits for a period greater than 52 weeks, it will be necessary to take a formal medical deposition of your doctor which ordinarily takes place in your doctor's office after you have testified in the case. A deposition is a formal question and answer session in which your doctor's testimony is taken under oath. A court reporter transcribes the testimony and the representative of the insurance company will be present to ask questions of your doctor.