Workers’ Compensation and Pension Benefits

If you receive both workers’ compensation benefits and pension benefits, it’s likely that your employer began reducing your compensation benefits when you started receiving pension benefits.  If so, it’s entirely possible that your employer has been taking MORE of a credit than it is entitled to take under the law. 

The Workers’ Compensation Act allows an employer to reduce an injured workers’ compensation benefits against pension benefits, to the extent that the workers’ pension benefits were funded by the employer.  Most injured workers learn that their employer plans to offset workers’ compensation benefits when they receive a “Notice of Workers’ Compensation Benefit Offset” form in the mail.  In many cases, the employer fails to fully explain how it calculated the offset; or, the calculations, if provided, may seem remarkably complex.  As a result, many injured workers simply accept their employers’ representations regarding the amount of the offset. 

For many years, the attorneys at Abes Baumann have aggressively fought efforts by employers to reduce our clients benefits based on pension payments.  When an injured worker chooses to challenge a “Notice of Workers’ Compensation Benefit Offset” form, the employer bears the burden of proving the extent to which the employer funded the pension.  If the employer is unable to convince the Workers’ Compensation Judge (WCJ) that it funded a specific portion of the pension, the WCJ can disallow ANY reduction.  Even if the Judge allows some reduction, the WCJ has the ability to determine whether or not the amount of the reduction claimed by the employer is accurate. 

We are currently litigating several cases involving former employees of the State of Pennsylvania who are currently receiving pension benefits through the State Employee’s Retirement System (SERS).  We believe that SERS has miscalculated the reduction and, as a result, the State of Pennsylvania has taken a larger reduction than that to which it is entitled.  We also believe that SERS has applied the same, flawed, method of calculation in many other cases. 

If you are an injured worker whose workers’ compensation has been reduced because of pension benefits, please contact our firm.  We can determine whether or not your employer is entitled to an reduction and, if so, whether or not the amount is correct. 


The title to this article is not an attention grabber. Indeed, it could cause one’s eyes to glaze over, and quickly move on without reading the article. However, the Regularly Used, Non- Owned (RUNO) Vehicle Exclusion, which is found in virtually all automobile insurance policies in Pennsylvania, is critically and practically important in this era of employer-provided vehicles, multiple vehicles per household, divorce, and non-traditional family situations. The multiple exclamation points following the title serve to point out that this arcane and superficially boring topic may become central to your life and happiness under certain circumstances.

The RUNO exclusion means generally that an auto insurance company will not provide benefits that would otherwise be required if the incident giving rise to a claim involves an individual covered under the policy who regularly uses a vehicle not covered by that insurer’s policy. Fundamentally, this exclusion is designed to prevent an insurer from being called to answer for a vehicle it does not insure, and for conduct it did not intend to insure. 

A sad example of how this exclusion works has to do with police officers. Assume that an officer has purchased his or her own auto policy that provides good coverage for the officer and the officer’s family. One of the keystones of a good auto policy is the provision of uninsured (UM) and underinsured (UIM) motorist coverage. These benefits apply where the responsible driver has either no insurance (UM) or inadequate insurance (UIM) to meet the needs of the case. Also assume that the officer is severely injured in an auto accident during the course of his or her duties, and that the responsible driver has little or no insurance coverage. One would think that this is exactly why the officer has purchased UM and UIM coverage, and that he should have access to it under his own policy. Not so. The RUNO exclusion prevents the officer from recovering UM or UIM benefits under his own policy because he was driving a vehicle that he did not own, but drove regularly. That officer may well feel that he paid for nothing when he purchased that coverage. Moreover, the victim’s life may have been changed forever due to someone else’s negligence, and there is no hope of being fully compensated.

To be fair, it must be acknowledged that an insurer does not intend to insure against all the risks involved in operating a police vehicle when it sells a personal policy. Further, individuals who drive an employer’s vehicle as part of their work are generally covered under the employer’s workers compensation and auto insurance policies. However, UM and UIM coverages are not mandatory, and one who is injured while driving for an employer may find that the employer declined to afford such coverage. Such an employee may be left far from whole after sustaining serious injuries while driving the employer’s vehicle. 

More to the point for the average family, however, is the reality that the same scenario may play out in more surprising but no less harmful ways. In the case of Rother v. Erie Insurance Exchange, a 2012 case from the Pennsylvania Superior Court, the youthful accident victim was denied UIM benefits because he was driving his father’s vehicle, and not that of his mother. The boy lived with his mother who had UIM coverage in her policy. However, he was driving his father’s separately insured vehicle at the time of the accident. For a mere two weeks prior to the accident the son had used his father’s vehicle to commute to and from work , and for emergencies. Nevertheless, the court ruled that this use was regular, and not isolated, casual or incidental. The RUNO exclusion applied, and UIM benefits were denied.

Many other such fact patterns can be readily imagined: the college kid borrows his aunt’s vehicle for a semester; one has a prolonged stay with a friend or relative, and drives their vehicles during that period; a teen buys a car and cut-rate auto insurance separate from the rest of the family vehicles, etc. All of these people are at risk for what is known as the “coverage tragedy.” 

The lessons to be learned from these examples are (1) that it is best, even if more expensive, to have all household autos insured under one good policy, and (2) that it is imperative to determined what kind of auto coverage applies to a vehicle the one does not own, but will use on a regular basis. Having use of a poorly insured vehicle is no bargain, and can lead to tragic results.

Robertson parents consider lawsuit over rezoning plan

Today’s post was shared by The Workers’ Injury Law & Advocacy Group and comes from www.tennessean.com

Elementary School zones.JPG

Proposed elementary school zones. (Photo: File )

A group of Robertson County parents are considering a lawsuit following the board of education’s Oct. 6 release of a federally mandated, mandatory rezoning plan while others are urging residents to embrace change and move forward for the students’ sake.

By Monday, an online petition to reject the federal rezoning plan in Robertson County had been signed by nearly 1,150 people and a Facebook page devoted to speaking out about the issue had garnered more than 1,500 likes and ample discussion.

Others, meanwhile, were taking to social media in an attempt to quell the backlash.

“I think people need a place to vent because they are frustrated and they don’t understand how this has happened, but I think we need to take a step back and try to analyze it dispassionately,” Robertson County Mayor Howard Bradley said. “No one likes it, but we have a responsibility to be adults about this and to lead through example.”

At first, backlash came in the form of unorganized social media postings, Facebook comments and Tweets expressing mostly negative viewpoints. Then, on Tuesday, Oct. 7, a new Facebook community emerged, “Community speaks up for NO in rezoning Robertson County Schools,” and it began to grow into an organized effort.

Springfield resident Jolene Safford is one of the site’s creators. A mother of two children, ages 8 and 6, Safford said she refuses to comply with the federally-mandated plan, which would…

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