by Ronald J. Fonner, Esq.
Section 315 of the Act specifically states that the limitation period shall not begin to run where compensation has been paid or payments have been made in lieu of compensation until three years following the date of most recent payment. Compensation is defined in the act to mean medical bills as well as wage loss benefits.
Schreffler v WCAB (Kocher Coal), 788 A2d 963 (pa 2002) and City of Philadelphia v WCAB (Brown), 830 A2d 649 (Pa Cmwlth 2000) hold that in order to toll the statute of limitations the employee has the burden of demonstrating that the payments of medical expenses were payments of compensation – meaning: the employee must establish that the injury was work related, and, the payments were made with the intent that they be “in lieu of workers compensation”.
So if the wc carrier pays bills within the 3 year period, the statute FOR A CLAIM PETITION is tolled until 3 years until the date of the most recent payment.
HOWEVER, compare this to Westinghouse Electric v WCAB (Korach), 883 A.2d 579 (Pa 2005) and Riggle v WCAB (Precision Marshall Steel), 890 A.2d 50 (Pa Cmwlth. 2006) which hold the mere payment of medical bills after the statute of limitations has run does not extend the statute of limitations. However, Korach dealt with an employee seeking to expand the description of injury more than three years subsequent to a commutation of his wage loss benefits and did not begin to treat for the additional injury until three years after the injury occurred (to get medical bills related to depression paid). Although the carrier paid for the psych bills for several years after the commutation, it did not begin to pay for the medicals until the commutation. The court held that the appropriate petition should have been to amend the Notice of Compensation Payable vs. filing a Claim Petition and, therefore, Section 315 of the Act did not apply, but 413(a) and 319 did. Korach is limited to cases of commutations or indemnity only C & Rs.
In sum when filing a Claim Petition, the statute can be tolled by payment of medical bills. However, it is our position that as soon as a diagnosis has been made, or treatment has started for a new diagnosis, it is important to file a Petition right away.