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The instructions for appealing a workers' compensation decision by the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry are like many instructions from the government. Ostensibly to help, they often serve to hinder. Designed to be clear, they can instead be cluttered with legalese, acronyms, codes and awkward wording.

Fortunately, workers' compensation attorneys do understand legalese and do know how to decipher the bureaucratic maze of paperwork, requirements and deadlines. Best of all, they understand how to protect the rights of an injured worker who needs and deserves workers' comp benefits.

Here's an example of the department's convoluted attempt to communicate with injured workers: You have 20 days from the circulation date to file Form LICB-25/26 to appeal a judge's decision. The circulation date is listed on the first page of the decision. You must also complete the proof of service page, including all names and addresses on the circulation sheet from the judge's decision (don't forget to include the judge's name and address). Then mail a copy to everyone listed.

You might well be able to work all of that out and complete it as needed. But here is where the process gets truly thorny for the layperson. On your appeals form, the website says, you are to list your "Alleged findings (Be specific in listing the reasons for appeal and state why you feel the Judge was wrong in his/her decision.)"

Trying to outthink a judge when it comes to the law is a tricky proposition for anyone. For someone without legal training and a thorough understanding of Pennsylvania workers' comp standards and process, the prospect is even more daunting.

That's why so many injured Pittsburgh workers -- especially those who have suffered serious injuries -- turn to experienced attorneys to help them with an appeal. The stakes are high, which means insurers and employers are often ready and willing to fight to deny you the benefits you have earned.

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