Aaron Martin - The Fairness Center

Attorney Aaron Martin Appointed The Fairness Center Trustee

Aaron Martin - The Fairness Center

Attorney, Aaron D. Martin has been appointed a trustee of The Fairness Center, a nonprofit, public interest law firm that provides free legal services to those in disputes with public sector union officials. The Fairness Center’s lawyers handle matters ranging from administrative charges and hearings to the filing of traditional and class action lawsuits in federal and state courts. Based in Harrisburg, PA, The Fairness Center currently provides representation to clients in both Pennsylvania and Connecticut.

What’s the Biggest Mistake a Licensed Professional Can Make, When Faced with a State Board Investigation Notice?

By: James Goldsmith. Esq.

James Goldsmith. Esq.

Responding on your own to a licensing investigation or meeting with the board investigator, without legal representation, is one of the biggest mistakes a licensed professional can make when faced with an investigation notice from the state board.

If you receive an investigation notice from the state’s professional licensing board, immediately contact an attorney who is knowledgeable in professional license defense and familiar with state licensing boards and the disciplinary process. Not having an experienced attorney to provide a vigorous defense can adversely impact the outcome of the inquiry and put your professional license in peril.

The laws and regulations surrounding Pennsylvania’s professional licensure are complex and can widely vary from one profession to another. Our attorneys have an in-depth understanding of professional licensing and provide experienced representation. From a wide range of issues, from representation at administrative hearings to complaint investigations and disciplinary actions we guide clients through each step of the process to protect their professional licenses.

How Should an Employer Handle a Repetitive Motion Injury?

By: Victoria Edwards, Esq.

In manufacturing jobs many times employees are required to perform the same motion repeatedly or maintain certain body positions or grips, which can result in repetitive motion injuries. Under the Workers’ Compensation Act, an injury need not be pinpointed to a specific event or definable incident, so long as the injury arises in the course of employment. Pennsylvania Courts have held that an injury may have resulted from the cumulative effect from the work duties. Many cases come down to differentiating between repetitive motion injuries and degenerative conditions associated with aging. When an employee reports a repetitive motion injury, an employer should immediately document and file a report of injury and notify their insurance carrier. An independent medical examination is also essential to provide a potential basis to deny the claim. Additionally, have an employee be prepared to testify regarding steps taken to ensure that the work station was ergonomic and to address other mitigating factors.

Qualifying for Social Security Disability

By: Victoria P. Edwards

Social Security Disability

Social Security Disability (SSD) is for people, who during their employment history, have amassed enough work credits by paying Social Security payroll taxes. To be considered for Social Security Disability you must be suffering from a severe condition that is expected to last at least 12 months; or result in death; or that prevents you from performing the work you did; or any other work at Substantial Gainful Activity levels.

To be eligible for Social Security Benefits, a person must be unable to engage in Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA). SGA is the net of impairment-related work expenses, which are expenses you incur from the purchase or payment related to special equipment, training or anything else related to your ability to perform work with your impairment. These expenses can be used to reduce your monthly earnings in order to be considered earning under SGA. In 2018, SGA is earning over $1,180 per month and $1,970 per month for those who are blind.

If the previous information is relevant to your condition, you can apply for Social Security Disability online at SSA.Gov or at the local Social Security Office. The application review process usually takes 4-8 months to hear a decision. Statistics from the United States Social Security Disability Insurance Program show that nearly 60% of applications are denied. Anything from incomplete information to improper medical records can result in denial of the disability application.

Completing all necessary forms correctly is crucial to a successful application. An experienced attorney familiar with Social Security Disability can guide you through the entire process, providing you with information about how to answer questions appropriately, proper documentation of condition and chronicling your treatment history to ensure that your application is accurate.

There is an expedited process available for critical cases. These cases are designated for situations involving terminal illness, veteran with 100% permanent and total disability rating, military casualty/ wounded warrior case and compassionate allowance. Expedited situations also include claimants who are in dire need; meaning they are without food and are unable to obtain it; or lack medicine or medical care and are unable to obtain it; or lack shelter.

If your initial application is denied, you may appeal and ask for a hearing with an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). If denied by the ALJ, you may then appeal to the Appeals Counsel. If then denied by the Appeals Counsel, you may appeal to the District Court. Having an experienced Social Security Disability lawyer can help to ensure that your application is accurate thus improving chances of receiving SSD.

Use Of Smartphone Voice Memo App Can Be a Wiretap Violation

Permission To Record Must Be Granted First

Use Of Smartphone Voice Memo App Can Be A Wiretap Violation

The Pennsylvania Superior Court ruled that the use of the voice memo app on a smartphone to record a conversation, without the permission of the participants in the conversation, is a violation of the Pennsylvania Wiretap Act.

Section 5703 of the Wiretap Act provides that “a person is guilty of a felony of the third degree if he … intentionally intercepts, endeavors to intercept, or procures any other person to intercept or endeavor to intercept any wire, electronic or oral communication.” 18 Pa.C.S. § 5703(1). Com. v. Smith, 2016 PA Super 43 (Feb. 19, 2016).

In the case, Talbot S. Smith was charged with interception of oral communications after he surreptitiously recorded a conversation with his former boss using a “voice memo” application (“app”) on his smartphone. On appeal, the Commonwealth argued that the trial court erred in concluding that Smith’s use of the app on his smartphone did not constitute use of a “device” to intercept communications under the statute. The Superior Court reversed the ruling of the trial court, deciding that recording a conversation with a smartphone app without consent is a violation of the Pennsylvania Wiretap Act.


Before turning on the voice memo app or any other device capable of recording oral communications, you need the permission of all the participants in the oral communications. If you have questions about how this ruling impacts you or your business, contact us.

Stacking Coverage Limits

by Thomas A. Archer

Stacking Coverage Limits

This is the third in a series of three articles dealing with some of the major decisions facing automobile insurance consumers when buying their car insurance.

The first two topics dealt with limited vs. full tort and underinsured/uninsured motorist coverage. The takeaway from the first two topics is that you make sure you have full tort coverage and carry as much underinsured motorist coverage as you have liability coverage. The third topic deals with coverage “stacking.”

Stacking means that insureds can combine, or “stack,” the amount of underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage they have according to the number of vehicles on the policy. So, for example, if you own three vehicles that are insured by the policy and it has $100,000 single limit/$300,000 per accident in underinsured motorist benefits, you can elect to stack those benefits, resulting in $300,000/$900,000 in coverage. When chosen, that is not specifically waived; stacking applies to uninsured motorist (UM) benefits as well. Stacking can be done within a single insurance policy or across separate policies.

As with the previous insurance coverage options we discussed, adding stacking to your policy will increase the annual premium. But the increase in premium is relatively low when compared to the significant benefit that is added.

Recall we discussed that the minimum amount of liability insurance coverage required to satisfy Pennsylvania’s Financial Responsibility law is $15,000 for bodily injury to, or death of, one (1) person in any one (1) accident and $30,000 for bodily injury to, or death of, two (2) or more persons in any one (1) accident, subject to the $15,000 per person limit. While the legislature has introduced a bill to raise these minimum limits, they currently remain the lowest such limits in the country.

In the event you are involved in an auto collision and sustain injuries resulting from another driver’s negligence, it may well be by someone carrying the state minimum insurance protection. More than likely, these minimum limits will be the only available resources of the other driver, the “tortfeasor,” from which to compensate you for injuries and harms as a result of the crash. Even if the tortfeasor has higher limits, those limits may not be enough to account for your losses, such as if extensive medical care is required or extended disability and wage loss is incurred. Stacking of UIM benefits is an excellent way to protect you and your family in the event of multiple or severe injuries or disability as a result of the crash.

Other articles in the Automotive Insurance Decision Series:

Article I: Don’t Give Up Your Right To Full Tort Protection
Article II: Underinsured Motorist Coverage

Underinsured Motorist Coverage

Are You Underinsured?
by Thomas A. Archer

Underinsured Motorist Coverage

The minimum amount of liability insurance coverage required to satisfy Pennsylvania’s Financial Responsibility law is $15,000 for bodily injury to, or death of, one (1) person in any one (1) accident and $30,000 for bodily injury to, or death of, two (2) or more persons in any one (1) accident, subject to the $15,000 per person limit. While the legislature has introduced a bill to raise these minimum limits, they currently remain the lowest such limits in the country.

What does this mean to you? If you are in an auto collision and sustain injuries resulting from another driver’s negligence, you may well be harmed by someone carrying the state minimum insurance protection. More than likely, these minimum limits will be the only available resources of the other driver, the “tortfeasor,” from which to compensate you for injuries and harms as a result of the crash. In the event you were to sustain anything more than relatively minor injuries, you will have otherwise compensable losses well in excess of the tortfeasor’s available resources to pay for them.

For that reason, Pennsylvania drivers have the option of purchasing underinsured motorist coverage (UIM) or, in the case of an accident caused by an uninsured driver, uninsured motorist coverage (UM). By having these coverages, there is now an additional resource for compensating injuries and losses in the event that a tortfeasor does not have sufficient coverage to pay for them. However, Pennsylvania drivers cannot purchase more UIM or UM than they carry in liability coverage. If you decide to carry the state minimum 15/30 coverage, you can carry no more than 15/30 on your own vehicle for UIM or UM. If, on the other hand, you carry higher liability limits, for example 100/300, you have the ability to purchase up to $100,000 (or $300,000 for multiple victims) in UIM or UM coverage.

It is sometimes the case that clients come to me with lower UIM limits than their liability limits. This is often referred to as a “sign down” because to do so, the insured driver must sign an insurance document acknowledging that he or she is knowingly electing to carry less UIM or UM than his or her liability coverage. Worse, we sometimes see insured drivers who have completely waived UIM and UM coverage, despite having to maintain coverage for injuries to others. This scenario can easily result in a coverage tragedy, where the client’s injuries and losses are extensive, but the available insurance coverage from which to compensate for such harms is insufficient.

These benefits, depending upon the amount of coverage purchased, might typically increase the annual insurance premium by a factor of about 5%-15% of the total premium versus a complete waiver or election to decline such benefits. For most, this represents a difference of anywhere from maybe $50 to around $200, or less, per year. There are a number of factors that go into these calculations, but the point is that having UIM and UM coverage as part of your insurance policy is not, in most cases, relatively expensive. This is especially true when considering what is lost in the event of a single car accident caused by someone with less than sufficient insurance coverage.

Other articles in the Automotive Insurance Decision Series:

Article I: Don’t Give Up Your Right To Full Tort Protection
Article III: Stacking Coverage Limits

Don’t Give Up Your Right to Full Tort Protection

Making Decisions About Car Insurance?
by Thomas A. Archer

Don't Give Up Your Right To Full Tort Protection

There are few more disappointing conversations that I’ve had to have with clients than letting them know they cannot recover their losses caused by another driver in a motor vehicle collision because the client has selected the “limited tort” option on their policy of insurance. After more than 20 years in practice, I am still surprised to hear that some of these clients had no idea that this limiting provision even appears in their auto policy.

In Pennsylvania, drivers may have a limited tort auto insurance policy or a full tort auto insurance policy. New Jersey drivers have a similar choice between what is referred to as the “verbal threshold” or “no threshold.” In Pennsylvania, limited tort basically means, with certain specific exceptions, that you can only recover “economic loss” following a car accident. Such losses might include medical bills, which are in many cases already covered by your auto or health insurance, and lost wages. You cannot, however, seek repayment for pain and suffering, the most significant harm that befalls most accident victims.

If you have never been in an auto accident, it may be difficult for you to appreciate the pain, physical limitations and loss of life’s basic pleasures that often follow an automobile collision. I have seen many cases in my career involving accident victims who endure years of pain and hardship, but whose injuries would not overcome the serious injury classification that would be required to overcome the application of the limited tort option. Where this option applies, as a result of the accident victim’s selection, the victim is left without a remedy for recovery of losses for which the law otherwise provides.

While insurance companies are required to have their insureds sign a form confirming the limited tort selection at time of purchase, the fact is that most purchasers do not appreciate the impact of that decision. This is because most people do not consider the potential value of a future claim for losses as opposed to the relatively limited short term savings realized by selecting the limited tort option. An insured driver might save some money on an annual premium, but those savings will likely be outstripped many times over in the event of a single car accident where injuries cannot be compensated as a result of application of the limited tort option.

Understandably, budgetary concerns may make short-term savings on car insurance look like a good idea. But there are other ways to cut costs, such as increasing your deductible or combining multiple policies with a single insurer that make better sense than leaving you or a family member without the full protection of your insurance. The bottom line is to be informed as to the coverages you have and periodically review those coverages with an agent or representative to make sure that you and your loved ones are sufficiently protected.

Other articles in the Automotive Insurance Decision Series:

Article II: Underinsured Motorist Coverage
Article III: Stacking Coverage Limits

Economic Development Incentives in PA

by Paula J. Leicht and Brian J. Hinkle

Economic Development Incentives in PA

Over the past eight years Pennsylvania has had a remarkably business-friendly environment despite budget shortfalls and an overall weak economy. During that time, and while the Governor’s Office and General Assembly were both Republican and Democrat-controlled, existing economic development incentives and programs continued to receive funding and new incentives and programs were created, all of which were aimed at making Pennsylvania an attractive place to do business.

Additionally, with the election of Democrat Governor Tom Wolf, a businessman and former Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue, and the pro-business Republican leadership in the General Assembly, the trend toward expanding economic development incentives seems likely to continue.

As such, any business looking to relocate to/expand in Pennsylvania should take full advantage of the numerous economic development incentives offered in Pennsylvania, a number of which are discussed below.

Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Incentives:

Tax breaks and other economic development incentives are essentially the only tools used to attract and retain businesses over which the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has control.

As it relates to tax breaks, Pennsylvania has been trending toward offering industry and business-specific tax incentives, such as tax credits and Sales and Use Tax exemptions, over the past few years. For example, a 25-year $1.65 billion tax credit was signed into law in 2012 that incentivized the construction of an ethane processing facility in western Pennsylvania. Also, a Sales and Use Tax exemption for sale of airplane parts and services worth an estimated $12.5 million was signed into law in 2013. A similar exemption for helicopters was also enacted in 2009. These types of incentives, which can be challenging to obtain, provide meaningful incentives to any business or industry that receives them.

As for other economic development incentives, the Pennsylvania Department of Community & Economic Development (DCED) invests public resources to create jobs in Pennsylvania. To do so, DCED administers various grants, loans and loan guarantees designed to stimulate economic development in Pennsylvania. These types of incentives are typically less challenging to obtain than the industry or business specific incentives discussed above. The following is a summary of selected programs administered by DCED:

Keystone Opportunity Zones (KOZs) – KOZs were designed to offer state and local tax incentives to attract businesses to designated areas within Pennsylvania. KOZs are designated by local governments and approved by DCED. Incentives offered through the KOZ program include, but are not limited to, abatements and exemptions to: corporate net income tax; earned income tax; property tax; and business gross receipts tax. KOZ projects also receive Sales and Use Tax exemptions for certain purchases of services and products.

Job Creation Tax Credit (JCTC) Program – The JCTC Program was established for the purpose of securing job-creating economic development opportunities through the expansion of existing businesses and the attraction of new businesses to Pennsylvania. Specifically, the JCTC Program provides employers with a $1,000 tax credit per employee for those employers who meet certain requirements.

In addition to the various programs administered by DCED, numerous opportunities to obtain financing for economic development projects exist in Pennsylvania. For example, the Pennsylvania Economic Development Financing Authority (PEDFA) provides access to low-interest financing for businesses through the issuance of tax-exempt and taxable bonds. Additionally, the Pennsylvania Industrial Development Authority (PIDA) provides access to financing for businesses engaging in projects involving the acquisition, renovation, expansion or new construction of land and buildings.

Local Government Incentives:

While many incentives are offered by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, local governments may also offer incentives to attract and retain businesses.

For example, Payment In Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) Agreements are entered into between for-profit or non-profit entities and local governments and involve voluntary payments made by the entity to the local government as a substitute for county and township property and school district taxes. With regard to for-profit entities, PILOT Agreements are used almost exclusively as an economic development incentive to attract certain businesses.

Another example is Tax Increment Financing (TIF), whereby an industrial or commercial development authority may issue tax increment bonds to finance certain project costs for residential, commercial or industrial development projects within a tax increment district, which is created by resolution or ordinance by the governing body of the local government, usually a municipality or county.

At Mette, Evans & Woodside, our experienced attorneys can help you navigate the numerous programs available, work together with our strategic partners on any government relations efforts which may be required to obtain incentives, and address other issues, such as obtaining land development, subdivision and zoning approvals, which may arise during the course of your relocation/expansion.

Employer Service Provider Security Breach

by Paula Leicht

Employer Service Provider Security Breach

What should you do in the event of notification by your employer that a service provider to your company has notified its clients that the service provider’s client files were accessed by unauthorized persons?

There have been a number of recent media articles on this subject and some recommendations on steps an employee should take to avoid being a victim of identity theft. This article will summarize the type of employee information obtained and outline steps to take to minimize the risk that the personal information obtained could be used by unauthorized persons.

First, the type of information obtained could include your name, social security number, direct deposit bank account information, if applicable, date of birth, hire date, wage information, home and cell phone numbers and home address. The type of information obtained depends upon the type of information provided by the employer for the particular service.

Your personal information could be obtained, even if you are no longer working for the employer, if the accounts were not deleted by the service provider for prior employees. If this is the case, you should receive notice of the security breach from your former employer.

The following are recommended steps to take for you to avoid unauthorized use of your personal information:

1. Obtain free credit reports from the three national credit reporting agencies at www.annualcreditreport.com or call toll free (877) 322-8228. Each agency will provide one free report annually. If you obtain one credit report from each of the three agencies at four month intervals, you can review your credit status for an entire year at no cost to you.

2. Immediately notify the banks involving the accounts which were compromised. The prudent approach to take would be to close those accounts.

3. Place a fraud alert on your credit reports by contacting one of the three reporting agencies: Equifax (800) 525-6285; Experian (888) 397-3742; and TransUnion (800) 680-7289. The agency you contact will alert the remaining two agencies. This fraud alert expires after ninety (90) days so you will need to renew the alert on day ninety-one (91) for the foreseeable future.

4. Routinely review bank account statements, credit card statements and telephone charges for any unauthorized activity.

5. File an Identity Theft Affidavit with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS Form 14039). This form alerts the IRS to mark your account to identify questionable activity such as someone other than yourself filing a tax return in your name and claiming your refund.

The Federal Trade Commission Consumer Information website at www.consumer.ftc.gov notes that identity thieves, upon obtaining your personal information, can withdraw funds from your bank accounts, charge purchases to your credit card, open new utility accounts or use health insurance information for medical charges.

Identity thieves also know that immediately upon being notified that your personal information has been obtained by unauthorized persons you will diligently be watching and monitoring your accounts for unauthorized activity. It could be a few months, a year or several years before the identity thieves actually attempt to do something with your personal information.

As the foregoing summary indicates, these are serious matters and should be addressed by all affected employees immediately as well as in the near and distant future.