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Pittsburgh Steelers Ordered to Pay Injured Ex-Center Workers’ Compensation

Every employer in Pennsylvania is required to carry an insurance policy that provides workers’ compensation benefits for employees injured in the course of their job — and the Pittsburgh Steelers, the fabled pro football franchise, is no exception, as a 2015 decision in favor of the team’s former center, Chukky Okobi, shows.

While playing for the Steelers from 2001 until 2007, Chukky Okobi suffered repetitive low-back injuries, which only worsened over time. As the team’s center, a position which involved snapping the ball to the quarterback, Okobi claimed he had been dodging, bending over, and extending his back both in training and facing opposing players while he was with the Steelers. Okobi’s back, neck, and shoulder injuries became severe enough to prevent him from lifting heavy weights or from playing football. He applied for workers’ comp in 2009, claiming that he should receive them from the Steelers’ fund because he sustained a herniated disc during the team’s 2006 summer training camp, preparing for the upcoming season.

Okobi’s claim was approved, and he was granted total disability benefits in the amount of $779 per week. The Steelers and their insurer, however, appealed the PA Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board decision to prevent Okobi from receiving these benefits.

After hearing the Steelers’ appeal, the Commonwealth Court judge ruled in favor of Okobi. A doctor’s testimony during the trial verified that he had reviewed Okobi’s medical records and diagnostic reports. After a physical examination, the doctor concluded that Okobi could not return to work as a pro football player. Citing that the football-related lower-back, neck, shoulder, and arm injuries destroyed his professional career, the judge ordered the Steelers to pay Okobi $779 per week in total disability benefits and to also pay him an additional $22,000 for other fees related to his injuries. Those fees included medical expenses of $5,516 and $17,832 in attorney fees, because the judge ruled the Steelers challenge to Okobi’s workers’ comp claim was “unreasonable.”

Although not every injured employee’s workers’ comp case will be as newsworthy as Okobi’s, all are worthy of a review by a knowledgeable lawyer. An appeal process can be lengthy and detailed, which is why all Pennsylvania employees who have been approved for and then denied workers’ comp benefits should consult with an experienced workers’ compensation attorney.

Rudberg Law Offices, LLC represents Pennsylvanians whose workers’ compensation claims have been denied.  If you need help getting the benefits you’re entitled to, call us at 866-306-2667 or contact us online.