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Why Teamwork Matters

We practice law as a team, not as individuals who just “do their own thing” and reject the input of our colleagues. Doing so allows us to spot “holes” in arguments, improve the focus of whatever point we are trying to make, and – most importantly – win cases and get the best results for our clients. And many of our clients are other attorneys who seek our advice or hire us to handle their appeals.

But not all lawyers subscribe to this belief – to them, ego matters more – they need all the credit.

Consider this scenario. I agreed to collaborate on an amicus (friend of the court) brief for a lawyers group about a legal issue where I had previously drafted an amicus brief that contributed to what was called the most important Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision in over 30 years. But like any landmark case, the decision needed some fine interpretations and cases are pending in various appellate courts.

I agreed to collaborate on amicus briefs in both the Supreme Court and the Commonwealth Court, both coincidentally due last week. My collaborator was an attorney with whom I had not worked. He provided me with drafts of the briefs. The briefs contained some excellent arguments, but were turgid, one exceeded the word limit, and both were begging for improvement. So I decided to do so.

One brief was 3,000 words too long, and the lawyer framed the legal issue as:

Whether Protz v. WCAB (Derry Area School District), 161 A.3d 827 (Pa. 2017) (Protz II) is to be applied retroactively to the date on which Claimant’s 500 weeks of partial disability benefits elapsed because the modification from total to partial was based on an Impairment Rating Evaluation (IRE) conducted under statutes since held unconstitutional. Failure to give Protz II full retroactivity violates the Remedies Clause of the Pennsylvania Constitution.

I revised the issue to read:

In Protz v. WCAB (Derry Area School District), 161 A.3d 827 (Pa. 2017) (Protz II), the Pennsylvania Supreme Court invalidated the Impairment Rating Evaluation provisions of the Workers’ Compensation Act. Because all IREs were deemed void ab initio, does Protz II apply retroactively to the date on which a Claimant’s 500 weeks of partial disability benefits elapsed because any other modification would violate the Remedies Clause of the Pennsylvania Constitution.

I also added multiple introductory sections, and cut the brief down to the proper word limit.  My “collaborator’s” reply was: “Your rewriting of my brief is great. … How did you do that so quickly?” He still filed his draft as written.

The Court rejected the brief my “collaborator” filed as too long. He received permission to file a shorter brief. Did he file my “great” version? No. He cut his dense document by 3,000 words and ignored me.

As for the Pa. Supreme Court brief, I revised his draft to make it more persuasive and reader-friendly. His reply: He attacked me viciously in email. Other attorneys who read it said it was “great” or “perfect.”

My guess is that when the Pa. Supreme Court rules, it will cite our amicus brief, as it regularly does. In fact, one Supreme Court Justice has publicly commented about the quality of my briefs, using compliments that made me speechless.

My “collaborator” is an excellent lawyer by all accounts. He just does not like collaborating, and seems to fit into the subject of Robert Sutton’s great book. But for our office, and our clients, and all the other injured persons we help by writing amicus briefs, we will continue to collaborate. After all, our goal is results!

 

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Batting 1000 – Attorney Dan Siegel is 6 for 6 in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court

On Tuesday, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court accepted our arguments completely and issued a landmark decision in Feliccia v. Lackawanna Universityholding that (1) a university “had a duty to provide duly licensed athletic trainers for the purpose of rendering treatment to its student athletes participating in athletic events,” and (2) a Waiver of Liability is unenforceable as to claims of gross negligence and recklessness. The Majority Opinion agreed with plaintiffs’ claim that the university assumed a duty toward the football players, noting that “the present factual scenario supports a determination that ‘affirmative conduct’ by appellants created a ‘special relationship’ with and increased risk of harm to its student athletes such that appellants had a duty to ‘exercise reasonable care to protect them against an unreasonable risk of harm arising’ from that affirmative conduct. … the record supports a finding appellants undertook a duty to provide duly licensed athletic trainers for the purpose of rendering treatment to its student athletes participating in athletic events, including the football practice.” Click here to read the Opinion.

Attorney Dan Siegel Has Never Lost a Case He Has Litigated in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court

A few people have asked me this week what my track record is in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. It turns I am 6 for 6, winning four cases as counsel, and winning two as appellate counsel. To say I am proud of this accomplishment is an understatement.

What’s more important, however, is that we live in a world in which every lawyer seems to have “participation trophies,” which are often nothing more than “pay to play.” Everyone is a Super Lawyer, or is ranked as a Best Lawyer, or has a 10/10 rating on some other site. While many of these attorneys are excellent, how many can say they have never lost a case in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, or that insurance really are more likely to settle cases with Attorney Dan Siegel because they know that, if needed, we will take cases on appeal, and we win? Not every appeal, but a large majority.

So, when you search for Dan Siegel on those “rating” sites, you may not find me because I don’t pay to have a high ranking, or to have my name displayed.

I prefer to let the “reporters” – the books that contain Supreme Court, Commonwealth Court and Superior Court opinions – display my name. They don’t charge, your name is published on merit.

Commonwealth Court Enhances Medical Providers’ Rights Against Workers Compensation Carriers

Attorney Dan Siegel Was Lead Counsel in Decision Affirming That Medical Providers Have a Right to Payment Under the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act

The Commonwealth Court today affirmed that insurance companies and their attorneys may not take actions that prevent medical providers from being paid for care for injured workers. The decision, in Workers First Pharmacy Services, LLC v. Bureau of Workers’ Compensation Fee Review Hearing Office (Cincinnati Insurance Co.), disallowed a procedure used by an insurer and its counsel intended to prevent a pharmacy not only from being paid, but also from having a hearing about its right to payment.

Havertown workers’ compensation and appellate Attorney Daniel J. Siegel, whose cases have dramatically expanded the protections available to medical providers caring for Pennsylvania’s injured workers, was counsel and argued the case before the Court.  Before this and other decisions in which Siegel was counsel, Pennsylvania courts had never ruled that doctors, physical therapists, orthopedic surgeons and other medical caregivers cannot be cutout from payment without a hearing.

“I am proud that this case, and others my office has handled, have expanded the rights of every medical professional in Pennsylvania. My firm’s recent cases have extended the rights of more injured persons and their medical providers than any other firm’s,” said Siegel, founder of the Law Offices of Daniel J. Siegel, LLC. He also credited attorneys Christa Frank High and Nicole A. Kratzer, who also handled the case.

In this case, a workers’ comp claim settled, and the insurance company’s lawyer included a provision in the settlement saying that (1) the injured worker was not obligated to pay for medicine he received, and (2) the insurer agreed to be bound by the separate fee review process used by medical providers to assert and protect their right to payment.  As soon as the settlement was approved, the carrier’s lawyer argued in the fee review that the pharmacy was not entitled to any payment because the insurer had never “admitted” that the worker was injured. The Fee Review Officer agreed and dismissed the matter, barring the pharmacy from any compensation. The Commonwealth appeals Court disagreed, stating: “Employer accepted full liability for the debt to Pharmacy. Employer’s counsel told Claimant that even if Employer was found not liable, Pharmacy could not hold Claimant responsible for the debt. Stated otherwise, Employer accepted “responsibility” for the debt to Pharmacy when it released Claimant from any obligation to pay Pharmacy in the C&R Agreement. Accordingly, the Hearing Office has jurisdiction to decide the three fee review contests.”

Click here to read the decision authored by President Judge Leavitt.

 

OSHA – No One’s Minding the Store – A Dangerous Position for Workers

All too often we discover that our injured clients have worked – often for many years – in factories and other facilities where the conditions are unsafe, and often extremely dangerous. All because their employers don’t care about their safety. All because the government doesn’t enforce the laws designed to assure worker safety.

That’s why the latest report about OSHA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, is troubling – but not at all surprising. Over 5,000 workers were killed on the job in 2017, and nearly 3 million were injured. Where was OSHA? They weren’t doing their job because they didn’t have anyone to do the job of inspecting workplaces.

As of January 2018, OSHA had only 764 inspectors, that’s 15 per state. The number has been dropping every year since 2016. In fact, enforcement actions – when OSHA inspects workplaces and prosecutes dangerous jobsites – have dropped to record low levels. It’s not surprising under the current administration, which does not value workplace safety. Former OSHA policy adviser Debbie Berkowitz estimates that it will take more than 160 years for the agency to inspect every workplace under its jurisdiction just once at current staffing levels.

This news is troubling because it means that if employers know that they don’t have to maintain a safe workplace, they won’t. And they don’t.

So, what does that mean for you? It means that you need to be careful, hope that your employer cares about you and maintains a safe work environment. It also means that if you get hurt, you need a law firm that will fight for you – whether it’s pursuing your workers’ compensation claim or assuring that any negligent parties are held legally responsible for your injuries and damages. At the Law Offices of Daniel J. Siegel, LLC, we are prepared to help you if you get hurt or a loved one is killed at work. No one should have to experience this hardship, but if you need a lawyer, call us 610-446-3457 to set up a free consultation.

 

Social Security Administration Slows Down the Disability Application Process by Adding More Red Tape

Two years. That is how long it can take for an individual to make his or her way through the social security disability application process. For individuals with significant physical or mental health impairments who desperately need income, that is an eternity. Now, the Social Security Administration has added three to six more months to the application processing time by requiring applicants to file for Reconsideration.

The Social Security Administration has reinstated Reconsideration as a step in the disability adjudication process. As of April 1, 2019, Pennsylvania applicants whose initial applications were denied, which is nearly everyone, must seek Reconsideration.

If the Social Security Administration denies your initial application, you have 60 days from the date you receive the notice to submit a request for reconsideration. After you submit your reconsideration request, the Disability Determination Services will do a second review of your records. Unfortunately, if there are no changes from your initial application, you can expect another denial. And, if the reconsideration request is not submitted within 60 days, you will have to start over and resubmit your initial application. Only after you receive the reconsideration denial, then you can request a hearing.

We regularly represent individuals seeking Social Security benefits and can assist you throughout the application process. 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 you need.

 

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