To Appeal or Not to Appeal
A final decision of a Judge is not final. Decisions can be appealed. In Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation cases, the following can be appealed:
1. the workers’ compensation judge’s decision was not in conformity with the terms of the Workers’ Compensation Act—meaning the Judge did not follow the law
2. the judge committed an error of law—again meaning the Judge did not follow the law
3. the findings of fact made by the judge were not supported by sufficient competent evidence—there was insufficient evidence to support the decision
4. the findings of fact made by the judge were obtained by fraud, coercion or any other improper conduct of any party of interest
5. the judge’s findings of fact and conclusions of law did not clearly and concisely explain the rationale for the decision—the judge did not issue a “reasoned decision” which an appellate court could review.
If your attorney finds that any one of these criteria have been met, the attorney may file an appeal with the Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board. This appeal must be filed within 20 days of the date of the judge’s decision.
After the appeal is filed an oral argument will be scheduled. This argument is not like the hearings held before the judge. No evidence is presented at these hearings. The attorney who filed the appeal will file a legal brief which explains why the judge’s decision was in error. The other side may submit their own brief on the case. After the argument and once the briefs are filed, the Board will issue its decision. This is not a quick process. It may take up to a year for the Board to make a decision.
Either side may file an appeal of the Board’s decision with the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania. Your attorney will discuss the rules for such an appeal to see if there is a valid reason for further appeals.