Pennsylvania Case Law

Make Sure Your Insurance Company Honors Your Policy Terms

Dealing with an accident is stressful. When your insurance company won’t honor the terms of your policy after the accident, that makes everything unnecessarily more difficult. That is why it is extremely important to know what your policy says and make sure you get the coverage you paid for.

On April, 14, 2021, the federal court in Philadelphia rejected an argument by State Farm Insurance that it did not have to pay for all of the plaintiff’s damages after a car accident. In Depretis v. State Farm Mutual Auto Insurance Co., the plaintiff purchased a limited tort insurance policy that excluded his ability to recover for pain and suffering and non-monetary damages unless he had “serious injuries.” The federal court concluded that the plaintiff presented sufficient evidence that he had suffered serious injuries because his neck and shoulder/arm had been impaired from the motor vehicle accident for four years. Therefore, the jury should decide the case.

Our office has regularly fought for our clients and others when insurance companies try to limit coverage. If you were injured by another party’s negligence or your insurance company is not abiding by your policy, please call our office at 610-446-3457 or click here to send an email to set up a consultation with one of our attorneys. We will explain the process, guide you and fight to get the recovery you deserve.

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Pennsylvania Superior Court Decision Can Help Injured Plaintiffs Recover More

It has been a decade since then Governor Tom Corbett signed into the law what was called the Fair Share Act (FSA), although the Unfair Share Act may have been a more accurate name. Before the FSA, if two defendants caused your injuries, but one couldn’t afford to pay, the other defendant was responsible. Under the FSA, a defendant is responsible for paying the total verdict only if it was more than 60 percent at fault. In that case, the victim of the negligence only received 60 cents per dollar.

That all changed on March 18, 2021 when the Pennsylvania Superior Court concluded in Spencer v. Johnson that the FSA’s limits on recoveries applied only when the victim was partly responsible for some of his or her injuries.

In Spencer, the Superior Court clarified that when a plaintiff has not contributed to his or her injuries, then each defendant is responsible for the entire jury award. This is a far fairer share.

Our office has regularly fought for our clients and others against reforms like these that only reduced victim’s rights. That’s what we do while representing injured individuals. If you were injured by another party’s negligence, please call our office at 610-446-3457 or click here to send an email to set up a consultation with one of our attorneys. We will explain the process, guide you and fight to get the recovery you deserve.

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Another Pennsylvania Supreme Court Victory for Injured Workers; Attorney Dan Siegel Authored Friend of the Court Brief

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has ruled yet again that injured workers cannot lose their wage loss benefits based on an unconstitutional Impairment Rating Evaluation (IRE). In its June 16, 2020 decision in Dana Holding Corp. v. WCAB, the Court ruled that injured workers are entitled to wage losses retroactive to the date of the IRE, provided their case was in litigation when the Court issued its landmark Protz decision declaring the IRE process unconstitutional. Click here to read the decision in Dana Holding.

Attorney Daniel J. Siegel of the Havertown Law Offices of Daniel J. Siegel, LLC, co-authored the Amicus (Friend of the Court) brief for the Pennsylvania Association for Justice (PAJ), which sought reinstatement of the injured worker’s benefits. Attorney Siegel was also the author of the PAJ’s Amicus brief in Protz, and is the only attorney who served as counsel in both landmark decisions.

Over the past decade, Attorney Siegel has served as counsel or Amicus counsel in cases preserving or extending the rights of more injured workers and others than any Pennsylvania lawyer. His firm regularly represents injured workers and other injured in accidents and from other causes. If you need an attorney, give us a call at (610) 446-3457 or click here to send an email and learn how we can help you.

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Now, more than ever, it’s time to recognize our mortality, and make sure your wishes are clear.

Clients new and old have been calling their attorneys, including our office, to either prepare their Wills, Living Wills, Powers of Attorney and other documents as they recognize that life is often fragile. While the logistics of planning are not convenient now, it is unfortunately a good time to draft these documents and avoid a situation where your family is fighting over what the language in a Will means, especially when that fight ends up in court.

And we are here to help you address your concerns, and to avoid the situation that arose in a recent Philadelphia case. In that case, known as Estate of Flores, the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas had to resolve a family fight over what Quintina Flores’ Will actually meant. Ms. Flores’ Will said that her youngest daughter would be the sole owner of her home. However, the Will also said that Ms. Flores “wished” that the property would never be sold unless all her children agreed. Of course, there was a dispute: Ms. Flores’ daughter wanted to sell the house, but her brother opposed the sale.

The Court ruled that the language in the Will was not clear, and determined that because the Will said that the daughter was the only owner, that language would override Ms. Flores’ “wish” that all her children agree to the sale.

Our office regularly prepares Wills, Powers of Attorney, Living Wills, Healthcare Authorizations and other testamentary documents. We work with our clients to assure them that the language in their documents is clear and reflects exactly what they want. Just give us a call at (610) 446-3457.

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Another Victory for Pa. Workers’ Compensation Medical Providers

The Commonwealth Court has, in another case in which Attorneys Dan Siegel and Christa High were appeals court counsel, eliminated yet another method used by insurers and employers to prevent medical providers who treat injured workers in Pennsylvania from being paid. In the case, Workers’ First Pharmacy v. Bureau of Workers’ Compensation Fee Review Hearing Office, the Court ruled that when a provider seeks payment for treatment or services under the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act, the insurer or employer may not claim that the care was not “causally related” to the injury. If it intends to dispute whether the treatment was related to the work injury, it must file a utilization review.

This is the latest in a series of appeals court victories for the Law Offices of Daniel J. Siegel, LLC that has yet again helped assure that doctors and other medical providers will be paid for the care they provide to injured workers. This also helps assure that doctors and other medical providers will be willing to provide the care these injured workers need.

Attorneys Dan Siegel and Christa High not only represent medical providers, but also represent injured workers, assuring that they receive every type of compensation they are entitled to. Dan Siegel wrote The Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Law Book  and The Injured Worker’s Guide to Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Law, a FREE book for injured workers

When you need a lawyer who not only knows the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Law system, contact the Law Offices of Daniel J. Siegel, LLC the Law Firm Whose Cases Make the Law.

We don’t have billboards and TV ads, WE HAVE RESULTS!

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Pennsylvania Supreme Court bars insurance companies from taking away benefits from and invading the privacy rights of auto accident victims.

Recovering from an automobile accident can be difficult and painful. It is even harder if your auto insurance company requires you to go to a medical examination whenever it wants and with a doctor it selects—or risk losing your benefits. No more. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court recently ruled that insurance companies cannot mandate that insureds submit to independent medical examinations whenever the insurance company wants because these policies violate public policy (essential fairness) and are “repugnant” to the Pennsylvania Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Law (MVFRL).

In Sayles v. Allstate Insurance Company, the Supreme Court concluded that the auto insurance policy provisions mandating these exams were void, emphasizing that these impacted the insureds’ “significant privacy interests” because they set no limits.

We regularly represent individuals injured in motor vehicle accidents and can assist you. You can call our office at 610-446-3457 to set up a consultation with one of our attorneys. We will explain the process, guide you and fight to get you the benefits and recovery you need.

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Another Supreme Court Victory for Injured Workers (In Which Philadelphia Area Attorney Dan Siegel Was Counsel)!

If you get hurt walking to your job from the parking lot, you are often eligible for workers’ compensation benefits in Pennsylvania. On November 20, 2019, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court unanimously agreed that injured workers should be compensated if they are injured in a parking area—even if that parking area is optional. Attorney Daniel J. Siegel of the Law Offices of Daniel J. Siegel, LLC submitted the friend of the court brief on behalf of the Pennsylvania Association for Justice.

In US Airways, Inc. and Sedgwick Claims Management Services, Inc. v. Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board (Bockelman), the Court agreed that a US Airways employee, who was injured on a shuttle bus taking her to an employee parking lot that was not owned by the employer, was entitled to wage losses and payment of her medical bills. Justice David Wecht authored the Opinion, writing that “the phrase ‘the employer’s premises’ in [the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation] Act should be construed liberally to include any area that is integral to the employer’s business operations, including any reasonable means of ingress to or egress from the workplace.” Because “the lot in which Bockelman parked her vehicle was integral to US Airways’ business operations,” she was entitled to benefits.

This is one of many Pennsylvania Supreme Court cases in which our office successfully represented the interests of injured workers and other accident victims, including many cases referred to our office by other lawyers. Just give us a call at (610) 446-3457 to learn how we can help you.

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Why Voting Matters – the General Assembly and Protz

We all hear that voting matters. Recent events highlight why voting matters for every worker in Pennsylvania and why, if the legislature reflected the values of injured workers, this blog post might be different. Tomorrow, Pennsylvanians vote for judges, and it’s important to vote for candidates who reflect your values; your vote matters.

Here are the details. In 1997, the legislature amended the Workers’ Compensation Act to allow insurance companies to reduce injured workers’ benefits through a process known as an impairment rating exam (IRE). It took 20 years, but through the efforts of our office and others, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court declared the IRE process unconstitutional in an opinion known as Protz II.

So what did the legislature do? In 2018, it enacted a new IRE process, fixing the problems that made the entire process unconstitutional. As a result, the IRE is back and insurance companies are using it one again to reduce the benefits available to Pennsylvania’s injured workers. And one appeals court has now ruled that the amendments were legally enacted.

If we had elected more legislators sympathetic to the plight of injured workers, there would not have been a new IRE process, and workers would have more rights than they do now.

Just like that, we are back to a process that can be used to reduce benefits for the majority of injured workers. So when you go to vote, for judges, for legislators, or for anyone else, make sure you find out where they stand on issues that matter to you.

Our office regularly represents injured workers and fights hard to get them the benefits they deserve – even if the system is not always fair. Just give us a call at (610) 446-3457.

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Interlocutory Appeals – When is the Right Time?

The term itself sounds alien – “interlocutory.” It refers to interim court decisions that usually aren’t appealable. Yet, the Pennsylvania Appeals Court Rules permit parties to appeal from some interlocutory rulings. The rub is when and how, two considerations lawyers may not think about or understand. Today, we won a case in which the Superior Court concluded that it could decide an interlocutory appeal based on Pennsylvania Rule of Appellate Procedure 341(c). The decision in Sawyers v. Davis is interesting because, to convince the Court, we had to carefully nuance the arguments in our brief and particularly at oral argument. The result: the plaintiff whose case was tossed gets her day in court. Click here to read the Superior Court decision in Sawyers v. Davis.

So, when can you appeal an interlocutory order? Attorneys need to closely review Pennsylvania Rule of Appellate Procedure 311, which says an “appeal may be taken as of right” without a final order, namely: orders affecting judgments; orders involving attachments, change of criminal venue or venire, injunctions, peremptory judgment in mandamus, new trials, or partition; and orders relating to venue or personal or in rem jurisdiction, preliminary objections in eminent domain matters and certain Commonwealth criminal appeals. There is a catch-all for “other cases” in which an “order is made final or appealable by statute or general rule, even though the order does not dispose of all claims and all parties.” Rule 311(a)(8).

A real nuance is Rule 311(f), which specifically addresses appeals following an administrative remand. Parties may appeal as of right: “(1) an order of a common pleas court or government unit remanding a matter to an administrative agency or hearing officer for execution of the adjudication of the reviewing tribunal in a manner that does not require the exercise of administrative discretion; or (2) an order of a common pleas court or government unit remanding a matter to an administrative agency or hearing officer that decides an issue that would ultimately evade appellate review if an immediate appeal is not allowed.”

Recently, the Commonwealth Court threw out an appeal because the Environmental Hearing Board’s decision was not appealable as of right under Rule 311(f)(1). In the case, Sunoco appealed from an Environmental Hearing Board Order sending a dispute back to DEP for further consideration. The Court concluded that the appeal did not satisfy Rule 311(f)(1) or (2) because the DEP would have to exercise administrative discretion and the issue would not evade appellate review.

Additionally, Rules 312 and 1311 address interlocutory appeals by permission and require you to file a petition to permission from an interlocutory order with the statement contained in 42 Pa. C.S. § 702(b).

Determining whether you can file an interlocutory appeal can be complicated. Our office regularly assists attorneys deciding whether they can file an appeal, and can assist at any point in the litigation. Just give us a call at (610) 446-3457.

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May I instruct the witness not to answer?

Even seasoned attorneys sometimes struggle with whether a communication is privileged or protected by the work product doctrine. Whatever the attorney decides can have significant implications in discovery and the trajectory of a case.

In Cohen v. Ellwood Crankshaft and Machine Co., No. 11212 C.A. 2016 (Pa. Ct. Comm. Pl. Lawrence Cnty. Aug. 29, 2019), the trial court denied a motion to compel a witness to answer questions that called for privileged information. Plaintiff had alleged a claim for premises liability against the property owner (Ellwood) because he was injured at work. Ellwood then filed a third-party complaint against Plaintiff’s employer (Mascaro) seeking indemnification based on their contract. During the deposition of Mascaro’s corporate designee, who was its corporate counsel, Ellwood’s attorney asked questions regarding the applicability and enforceability of the indemnification clause. The designee answered questions concerning the factual basis for the denial of indemnification, but Mascaro’s attorney instructed the witness not to answer questions concerning the legal basis for the denial, arguing the questions called for “mental impressions or opinions concerning the ultimate legal issues of this case.”

The trial court agreed with Mascaro that the questions sought “conclusions and opinions regarding an issue of law that will ultimately be decided by the Court,” and therefore are protected by Pa. R. Civ. P. 4003.3. Rather, such questions would only be proper in actions for malicious prosecution or abuse of process.

The applicability of the attorney-client privilege and work product doctrine is fraught with serious implications. Our office regularly assists attorneys encountering these and other difficult questions, and can assist at any point in the litigation. Just give us a call at (610) 446-3457.

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