Under Pennsylvania law, employees who are injured at work are entitled
to monetary benefits. This entitlement to benefits is established under theworkers' compensation statute. Although this may seem straight forward, the process can quickly
become very complex and difficult.
There are many requirements that must be met under this statute in order
to receive workers' compensation benefits. One of these requirements
is known as the captive period. In Pennsylvania, an injured worker must
see an employer-designated doctor for a specified period of time, known
as the captive period.
The captive period is currently 90 days. Some members of the legislature,
however, are pushing to extend this period to 180 days. Proponents of
the change argue that extending the captive period will help employers
to control the care and return injured workers to their jobs more quickly,
therefore decreasing workers' compensation costs.
Although on the surface, this change may not seem harmful to injured employees,
there are opposing viewpoints from those who are worried about how this
will impact employees who are obtaining treatment for on-the-job injuries.
One of the main concerns is that this captive period prevents injured workers
from getting a second opinion on their condition from another doctor.
This could lead to problems such as misdiagnosis, and the longer an employee
is captive, the more serious the impact of the misdiagnosis. It could
become so severe that it would eventually lead to permanent disability.
Another concern raised by opponents is that this doctor is an advocate
for the employer. Doctors fill out all of the paperwork that determines
the extent of compensation for the injured employee. If doctors are motivated
by the desire to receive future business from the employer, there is the
possibility for false paperwork.
Although this extended captive period has failed to pass the legislature
since 2003, it is likely to be given another shot in 2013 as the battle
for the 2014 election heats up. Those who work in inherently dangerous
positions would be well-served to stay informed on these developments
in workers' compensation law. In addition, anyone who has suffered
an on-the-job injury may find it helpful to seek the assistance of an
experienced workers' compensation attorney.
Source: cpbjnow.com, "Stalled workers' compensation reform has new chance in 2013," Jim T. Ryan, Dec. 21, 2012