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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Aug 2004

    Question How do I Reopen an old WC Claim?

    What is the name of your state? Pennsylvania

    Hello all,

    If anyone could help me out or give me some advice on this matter, I would really appreciate it. Almost two years ago, I was injured at my former place of work. Since I did not have medical insurance at the time, I was sent to an Occupational Health Center by my employers and was never informed that I had the option to consult another physician. As a result of this, for the first month that I was out of work, I was misdiagnosed as having a sprained back, when in fact, MRI results show that I have 2 herniated discs and degenerative disc disease in my lower back.

    When I asked the doctor what that meant, I was told that the disc at L4-S1 was basically disintegrating, and that I had already shrunk a quarter of an inch! When I consulted a surgeon about this while I was out of work, he informed me that while I was not a candidate for surgery at the time, there is a possibility that my condition could deteriorate and I might need to have surgery within the next 10 years or so. I am only 32 years old and do not have any children yet, so obviously, I did not take this news very well. My father had back surgery over 17 years ago and is permanently disabled, and that is something that I definitely do not want happening to me.

    Not to get off point, the whole purpose of this post is to find out what my legal rights are concerning my previous employers and whether or not I can reopen my WC claim. To make a long story short, after being out of work for close to 5 months, the company I was working for informed me that they no longer had a position for me at the location where I was working. I was obviously distressed over this, since I had worked for the company for eight years and had been a very loyal and dedicated employee in the time that I worked there. They offered me a position at another location that was 45 minutes driving distance from where I live.

    When I was discharged from Physical Therapy, the physician that I was seeing sent me back to work with a very strict set list of limitations, one of which was no sitting or standing for more than one half hour at a time. This was because I was suffering from sciatica due to the bulging disc at L5, which caused a pinching sensation in my buttock area and radiated down my right leg to the point to where I couldn't even put any weight on that leg. Since that is the leg that is used to control the gas and brake pedal on a car, it would have been impossible for me to accommodate the company's request that I relocate. After trying without any luck to contact both my former supervisor and the executive director of the company, I began to feel as if I was no longer welcome in the company.

    A few months later, I began working for another company, and I worked there for just over six months. I informed my employer during the interview process about my back condition and even provided medical documentation listing the medical restrictions I have placed on me because of my condition. Even with the medical restrictions, I would often come home in agonizing pain just from the day to day activities that came with the job. Though I do not consider myself to be a lazy person, there were many times when my supervisor would tell me to take out heavy loads of trash, scrub the bathroom floors and rearrange furniture.

    In one particular instance, there was a leak in the roof and the carpeting in my classroom began to grow mold. After bringing this to my supervisor's attention repeatedly, I decided to move the rug, myself, because I had parents complaining to me that they did not want their children getting sick from toxic mold spores. After this incident, I was incapacitated for four days. It was not long after this incident that I was terminated by this company because I had complained to their Corporate Headquarters about this and other incidents that did not sit right with me. It is my opinion that I was let go because the company saw me as a liability because of my Workers Compensation claim with my former employer. The way that I see it, they knew that when they hired me that I had a pre-existing condition, and since I was covered under the company's health plan and supplemental insurance in case of illness or injury, there was absolutely no reason for them to think that I was going to try to make a WC claim with them.

    Since then, I have been trying to find employment in an environment that would not require me to do any heavy lifting or anything else that would aggravate my condition, but there are just some days when I can barely even move the pain is so severe. This happens especially in damp weather, and now that I am not covered under a Health Insurance plan anymore, I have no way of seeing a doctor to alleviate the pain that I am in. So this leads me (finally) to my question:

    A year and a half ago, when I was discharged from Physical Therapy and informed my WC claims adjuster that I was being sent back to work, she informed me that I had up until three years to reopen my claim. I am sure that she meant that I could reopen the claim I had with the first employer, but I guess what I want to know is whether or not I need an attorney to reopen the claim and what the process of reopening a claim entails. Would I have to go to some sort of arbitration hearing, or would my benefits pick up where they left off? I know for sure that if I did reopen my claim that I would definitely seek a second opinion, because in the time since my accident, my condition has seemed to have gotten much worse.

    Well, I think that I've blabbed for long enough. It's just that there was a lot of ground that I wanted to cover, since I'm not sure what kind of information is required for an inquiry such as this.

    Thanks in advance to anyone who replies .

    ~ Dee ~

  2. #2
    Dee I am kinda going through the same thing and they tell me statue of limitations is up after two years. In the state of Florida you have to keep your clam open by visiting your WC doctor every year to stay on the books, I dont know what it is in your state. It is awful how they treat hurt employees and I think its because people who claim they got an injury on the job and really didnt make it hard for those who honestly got hurt on the job and deserve the benefits. Let me know what you find out.

    Ms Marie

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Aug 2004
    Ms Marie,

    Thank you very much for your reply. I am sorry to hear that you are having such difficulties. I completely agree with you on the fact that it's the injured worker who gets the raw end of the deal in these situations and that we're penalized for just trying to "get on" with our lives. In my case, I was 30 years old and did not want to be labeled as disabled for the rest of my life. Now it seems as if that's going to become an eventuality down the road, and had I known then what I know now, I would have sued the testicles off of my former employers. God bless you and good luck with your situation, I hope that everything works out in your favor in the end!
    ~ Dee ~

  4. #4

    Red face

    Thanks Dee and yes I have 20 years vested in my job and wish I would have did things differently with the first injury with my back at this job. I have since my surgery in 2000 got hurt two other times at work, one in the desk falling on my thighs and legs, then another with a sprained back and neck in 2003, I am currently out of work, its been rought as of late. I live in St Petersburg where are you from

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Aug 2004

    Red face

    Ms Marie,

    No problem, that's why I'm here. Not just to gather information, but to give as much information and advice as I possibly can. I'm no lawyer, but I try to find out as much as I can about the legal system since I can't afford to hire my own lawyer and there aren't very many out there who are willing to take a case pro bono unless there's a huge settlement involved.

    I'm a former Early Childhood Education worker from Philadelphia, PA. I've pretty much worked in the field since I graduated High School, before the No Child Left Behind Law made it mandatory for even TA's to have some sort of certification. I guess it really doesn't matter since I'm not in the best physical condition for that line of work anymore, so now it's on to plan B, I suppose, which is going back to school to learn a trade. It kind of stinks to have to start all over again at my age, but I'm still young enough to pull it off

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