Court Decision Puts 'Medical Only' NCPs on the Clock
March 23, 2016
By Matthew Slater, Esq.
The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court recently issued a decision that drastically affects an injured worker’s entitlement to wage loss benefits following an employer’s acceptance of a “medical only” claim. In Sloan v W.C.A.B., the Court held that a claim for wage loss benefits following an employer’s acceptance of a “medical only” injury must be filed within three years of the date of injury.
In Sloan, the claimant sustained an injury to her right knee in 2006. Her employer issued a “medical only” Notice of Compensation Payable recognizing that she sustained a work-related injury to her right knee and agreed to pay for medical treatment for the work injury. In 2007, she underwent surgery to her right knee resulting in missed time from her job. Unfortunately, she did not file a claim for wage loss benefit until 2011. The Court found that she should have filed her claim for wage loss benefits within three years of her date of injury.
For many Pennsylvania workers, injuries at work are common. However, not all work-related injuries result in time off from work. For example, a worker may experience a low back injury after a fall on the job but he or she might not miss time from work. This may be because an employer chooses to accommodate a worker’s light duty restrictions or the worker simply chooses to work through the pain.
In this situation, the employer may issue a “medical only” Notice of Compensation Payable. The “medical only” Notice of Compensation Payable acknowledges that a work injury occurred and obligates the employer to pay for medical treatment for the accepted work injury. A “medical only” Notice of Compensation Payable does not obligate an employer to pay for wage loss benefits if the worker misses time from work due to the injury.
The problem for injured workers occurs when the “medical only” injury results in missed time from work. It is common for an injured worker to miss time long after the initial injury takes place. This often occurs when an injured worker undergoes a surgery after exhausting conservative treatment options such as physical therapy, medications or injections. Another frequent scenario occurs when an injured worker’s employer simply chooses to no longer accommodate a worker’s ongoing need for light duty.
The recent Sloan decision increases the importance of filing claims in a timely fashion. Workers with a “medical only” injury should discuss the need for future treatment requirements with their physician. If the injured worker anticipates medical treatment that will take them out of work and / or is having difficulty performing their job, they will need to file a claim for wage loss benefits within three years of their date of injury.
If you have a “medical only” claim and anticipate missing time from work in the future, contact the certified workers’ compensation attorneys at Willig, Williams & Davidson for a free consultation.