High Swartz Attorney Don Petrille Joins Auditor General-Elect DeFoor’s PA Transition Team

High Swartz business attorney Don Petrille has been invited to serve on PA Auditor General-elect Tim DeFoor’s transition team. Mr. Petrille will be serving on the Legal Review segment of the team which will examine the status and scope of pending litigation and the extent of the auditor general’s authority. The team will also determine a legal strategy for the office, review existing legal staff, and pending human resource issues.

“I’m anxious to apply my knowledge of state, county and municipal governments to the legal issues faced by the auditor general’s office during a time of transition. Intergovernmental relations, between governmental branches, and within our state’s political subdivisions are significant issues. My combination of courtroom and business experience will serve the team well”, stated Mr. Petrille.

The auditor general’s transition team consists of five segments which will examine audits, performance audits, legal review, communications & government relations, and personnel & administrative operations. Mr. DeFoor is the former Dauphin County Controller who will succeed the current auditor general, Eugene DePasquale, who is term limited. Auditor general-elect DeFoor is the first person of color elected to a statewide row office.

As a Doylestown attorney, Mr. Petrille represents businesses through all phases of their development, starting with initial organization, through the operational stage, eventually ending with sale, merger, acquisition or dissolution. Don also advises clients on methods of wealth preservation, business succession planning, and purchase, sale, financing, leasing and improvement of real estate.

Before returning to full-time legal practice with High Swartz in 2020, Petrille served as the President of the Pennsylvania State Association of Elected County Officials, and the President of the Registers of Wills and Clerks of the Orphans’ Court Association of Pennsylvania. He served in county government as Register of Wills for eight years.

Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Benefits FAQs for 2021

Understanding Workers Compensation

If you sustain a job injury or a work-related illness, the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act provides for your medical expenses and, in the event that you are unable to work, wage-loss compensation benefits until you’re able to go back to work. This can be a difficult, scary, and confusing process for anyone. Here are some insights to help you better understand workers compensation.

Q: What are some of my options if I’m injured at work?

A: There are a number of potential sources for disability or wage benefits, depending on the circumstances of the individual.  Among the most common sources of disability and wage replacement benefits include:

  1. Short or long term disability benefits, often provided either through an employer or via an independently purchased short or long term disability insurance policy;
  2. Unemployment benefits, for people who have worked for the amount of time required and who have lost their jobs due to no fault of their own;
  3. Social Security Disability benefits, for people who have worked for the amount of time required and who are disabled and unable to work due to a condition or conditions that have lasted or are medically expected to last for more than a year;
  4. A lawsuit against the negligent party that caused the loss of income;
  5. Workers’ Compensation benefits; and/or
  6. Supplemental benefits through your collective bargaining unit or employer.

Q: The insurance company denied my claim. How do I get Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Benefits?

A: Your employer and its insurance company have 21 days from the time you notify them of a work injury to accept or deny your claim. If denied, you will need to file a petition to have your claim litigated before a Workers’ Compensation Judge.

Q: How long can I expect this workers’ compensation process take?

A: Although no case is the same, The workers’ compensation litigation process can take up to a year. So, frequently, an injured worker may apply for Unemployment Compensation, or Short Term and Long Term Disability, and in some cases Social Security Disability.

Q: How much wage replacement will I receive from workers’ compensation?

A: The general rule is that an injured worker receives 2/3 of his or her pre-tax weekly pay in workers’ compensation benefits. There are multiple exceptions. There are maximum and minimum amounts by law. Wage replacement benefits are based on two thirds of a worker’s “average weekly wage”. The 2020 maximum weekly workers’ compensation wage loss benefit was $1,081.00. That weekly compensation has been upped by $49 in 2021 to $1,130. The rate is based on the injured worker’s “Average Weekly Wage,” which is a number often in dispute.

Q: Can I collect Unemployment?

A: If the injured worker is capable of working, but not at her preinjury job, she may be eligible for unemployment. The injured worker could collect the unemployment benefits, but then the employer would be entitled to a dollar for dollar offset against any worker’s compensation benefits covering the same period.

Q: Do I get paid for my “pain and suffering,” and the interruption my work injury has on my life?

A: Unlike a personal injury action, the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act pays wage loss and medical benefits related to the work injury, but no pain and suffering, and no loss of consortium.

Q: Is it possible to sue a third party – like the manufacturer of the defective materials I worked with?

A: It is sometimes possible to pursue a personal injury lawsuit against a negligent third party while simultaneously collecting workers’ compensation benefits. It would be best to consult a Workers’ Comp Lawyer, like those here at High Swartz, to review your options.

Q: The insurance company wants me to go to a specific doctor. Do I have to go?

A: There are two categories of physicians an employer may ask you to see through the workers’ compensation system.

The first are “Panel Physicians.”  If your employer posts a list of physicians designated to treat employees for work injuries, Pennsylvania law requires you to treat with a physician from the panel for the first 90 days of treatment for a work injury. There are exceptions to this rule.

The second category is IME or DME physicians. Pennsylvania law allows the insurance carrier or your employer to have you evaluated by a physician of its choosing at reasonable intervals. These evaluations, known as independent medical evaluations (IMEs) or defense medical evaluations (DMEs), are not for the purpose of treatment. Instead they are designed for the insurance carrier to get an opinion “independent” of your treating doctor regarding the status of your work injury.

There are consequences for not attending an IME.

Q: Can I settle my workers’ comp claim for a lump sum?

A: Yes. A Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation claim may be settled, by agreement of the parties. All aspects of a claim are negotiable in a settlement. After negotiating and reaching an agreement, the parties must file a petition to present the settlement to a Workers’ Compensation Judge, in a hearing, before it can be approved and finalized. There are multiple facets of non-workers’ compensation benefits to be considered as part of any negotiation and settlement.

As a workers comp law firm, we certainly don’t expect these FAQs to give you a full understanding of workers compensation. If you are considering filing a workers’ compensation claim, or if a claim has been filed against you, don’t go it alone. Please consider contacting High Swartz’s Workers’ Comp team lead by Thomas E. Panzer at 1-833-LAW-1914 or tpanzer@highswartz.com. Our workers comp lawyers at our Bucks County and Montgomery County law firm are here to assist you.

The information above is general: we recommend that you consult a workers comp lawyer regarding your specific circumstances.  The content of this information is not meant to be considered as legal advice or a substitute for legal representation.

Prenuptial Agreements for Catholics

Unfortunately, a prenuptial agreement is commonly viewed as planning for divorce before a marriage even begins in the Catholic religion.

The mere mention of the word “prenup” can incite a gasp and an inquisitive raise of the eyebrow. But prenuptial agreements are not necessarily executed with an eye to an exit plan, but rather a marriage based on communication about finances to avoid problems.

There is nothing wrong with couples discussing and documenting their financial plans. In fact, it would be foolish not to discuss it; entering the marriage with a clear understanding of each other’s financial goals, and of any bad habits, prevents surprises and possible disappointment down the road. 

When you consider parties who may raise an eyebrow at a prenup, the Catholic Church naturally comes to mind as they remain honorably committed to the union of marriage. However, the Church also recognizes the importance of smart marriage preparation, and it is possible – and may be wise – for Catholic couples to have a Catholic Prenup drafted by a family law attorney.

Wise pre-marriage planning should address how to:

  • pay off “separate debt”
  • clean up a poor credit history
  • preserve some separate money
  • identify how to manage the couple’s pooled funds

In fact, Catholic Pre-Cana classes, which are taught by married couples and attended by engaged couples, URGE couples to communicate about finances.

Can Catholics get a prenuptial agreement?

It is widely known that arguments about money are common in marriages. When couples meet at the end of the aisle they each may have brought with them varying levels of debt and financial responsibilities. Once those bank accounts combine, how much each spouse brings in and how much they spend, and what they spend it on, may become excruciatingly clear. Couples who don’t understand each other’s fiscal personality and haven’t discussed how to divvy up debts, bills and spending money are in for some tough conversations.

Where Pre-Cana classes can start the conversation around financial planning, a prenuptial agreement can document the decisions made without creating an expectation of divorce. The astute family attorney can assess couples’ unique needs and concerns, including those that are religious, and take the right measures in creating pre-marital agreements. The agreements will be drafted without mentioning “divorce”, and not subject to disapproval by the Church.

This “Catholic Prenup” memorializes in writing a couple’s financial plans, addressing their liabilities and assets as they embark on their marriage commitment. A lack of communication can lead to heartache and too often a ruined marriage.  Preemptive measures like Pre-Cana classes, other counseling methods, and supporting documentation such as prenuptial agreements can help to strengthen unions, rather than set them up to fail.

To learn more, contact Mary Cushing Doherty at (610) 275-0700 or by email at mdoherty@highswartz.com. Visit her attorney profile here.

Visit the firm’s Family Law page here.

The information above is general: we recommend that you consult an attorney regarding your specific circumstances.  The content of this information is not meant to be considered as legal advice or a substitute for legal representation.