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Pa. diocese must pay full amount of injured priest's claim

If you're injured at work, you have a reasonable expectation that your employer will come to your aid and cover the cost of any medical expenses you incur. Unfortunately, this isn't always the case, even in situations where it seems abundantly clear that you're in need of help.

A 72-year-old priest working for the Diocese of Allentown, Pennsylvania, encountered this problem after he slipped and fell on an icy sidewalk in January 2009. He remained lying on the ground for about five minutes before he was discovered and taken to a hospital.

Treatment for the priest's potentially life-threatening head and back injuries cost more than $406,000, according to court records. But the diocese, which is self-insured, only paid about $142,000, contending that it wasn't responsible for paying all of the bills because some of the trauma care services the priest received weren't necessary. The state Bureau of Workers' Compensation later ruled against the diocese, which made an appeal to the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court. But it agreed with the bureau, stating that the services the priest received were in fact necessary, both because of his age and the severity of his injuries, which included two spinal fractures. The diocese petitioned the court for re-argument, but was rejected. It now must pay about $264,000 to make up the difference.

If you're injured in a work-related accident, you may face some resistance from your employer when it comes to seeking workers' compensation, no matter how cut-and-dry the claim might appear to you. In the priest's case, his employer continued to fight the claim even after two rulings. Your best option may be to find a personal injury lawyer who's experienced not only in workers' compensation claims, but in vigorous appeals. If you've been injured, the last thing you need is a legal headache.

Source: Lehigh Valley Live, "Diocese of Allentown must pay additional $264,000 in hospital bills for older priest who fell on ice," Colon McEvoy, Dec. 23, 2011

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