In Pennsylvania, work-related injuries and illnesses are more common than one might expect--in 2016 alone, nearly 160,000 Pennsylvanians suffered a job-related injury or medical condition. Luckily, a program known as workers' compensation exists to provide financial relief for those who are hurt on the job. Although the program exists, applying for benefits can be complicated, and a denial of benefits can take a devastating toll on your financial stability.
If you are struggling following a workplace injury in Pennsylvania, the personal injury team at the Brod Law Firm is here to provide you with the representation you deserve to obtain the benefits to which you're entitled.
What is Workers' Compensation in Pennsylvania?
Workers' compensation is a statewide program providing financial compensation to an employee who suffers a work-related injury or illness on the job. The program provides medical treatment for such conditions and compensates employees for income lost because of the injury or illness. Almost all employers are required to provide workers' compensation coverage, and in exchange for providing such coverage, the employers are protected from being sued by employees who are injured on the job.
Workers' compensation benefits in Pennsylvania are set in place by the state's Workers' Compensation Act. The purpose act has four main purposes:
- Defining the liability of an employer to pay damages for injuries received by an employee in the course of employment;
- Establishing an elective schedule of compensation for injured workers;
- Providing procedure for the determination of liability and compensation; and
- Prescribing penalties for noncompliance with the Act by an employer.
Who is Covered by Workers' Compensation in Pennsylvania?
The state of Pennsylvania requires workers' compensation coverage for any employer who employs at least one person who:
- could be injured or develop a work-related disease in the state; or
- could be injured outside the state of the employment but who is primarily in Pennsylvania except requires travel elsewhere.
The broad characteristics stated above mean that providing workers' compensation insurance is mandatory for almost all employers and that most employees are protected by the program's benefits for the entirety of the time that they are employed. An employee's predisposition to an injury or disease is irrelevant with regard to workers' compensation--from day one, the employee is covered by workers' compensation regardless of any preexisting conditions.
Exceptions to mandatory workers' compensation coverage include:
- Individuals who receive coverage under other workers' compensation acts, e.g., railroad workers and federal employees;
- Domestic servants;
- Agricultural workers who work less than 30 days in a year or who earn less than $1,200 in a year;
- Casual workers whose employment is not in the regular course of business of the employer;
- Sole proprietors or general partners;
- Executive officers who have been granted exclusion by the Department of Labor and Industry; and
- Employees who request--and are granted--exemption due to religious beliefs.
Employers who are subject to mandatory workers' compensation coverage can obtain workers' compensation insurance through:
- their own insurance carrier,
- approval to self-insure, or
- the State Workers' Insurance Fund.
Common Work-Related Injuries in Pennsylvania
No one is immune from the possibility of a workplace injury--anyone can suffer an injury or illness on the job, from a coal miner to a school principal. When it comes to workers' compensation, the key difference in such careers is the type of injuries that employees are most likely to face.
The most common injuries suffered by employees include:
- Slipping on wet floors or falling over objects on the ground;
- Overexertion injuries, e.g., muscle strain caused by moving or lifting heavy objects;
- Cuts and lacerations from machinery or equipment;
- Repetitive motion injuries, like carpal tunnel syndrome or eye strain;
- Injuries caused from being struck by falling objects;
- Car wrecks and collisions while traveling for work;
- Falling from structures, like ladders and scaffolding;
- Violent workplace altercations;
- Illness caused by inhaling toxic fumes; and
- Overexertion injuries caused by lifting or holding heavy objects.
High-Risk Professions in Pennsylvania
According to an annual report compiled by the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry's Bureau of Workers' Compensation in 2016, the following professions had the highest number of workplace injuries:
- Educational and Health Services: 44,723 injuries
- Trade, Transportation, and Utilities: 41,323 injuries
- Manufacturing: 19,824 injuries
- Public Administration: 11,720 injuries
- Professional and Business Services: 11,191 injuries.
Although job descriptions in these various industries vary greatly, the most frequent type of injury remained the same--sprains and strains comprised at least one-third of all workplace injuries in these fields, and the area of the body most commonly injured was the upper extremities.
What Should I Do After a Workplace Injury?
No matter what workplace illness or injury you suffer, several steps should be taken in order to ensure the best possible chances of receiving assistance from workers' compensation benefits. After your injury or illness is discovered, make sure that you:
- Seek appropriate medical treatment for your injury or illness as soon as possible;
- Alert your employer as soon as possible after your injury, no matter how slight the injury you sustained may be;
- Keep good notes of your injury, including how and where the injury happened, what symptoms you experienced, and what treatment was necessary; and
- Call an experienced and competent personal injury attorney to help you file a workers' compensation claim.
How do I File a Workers' Compensation Claim?
Following an on-the-job injury or illness, it's important to inform your employer of your condition immediately. Your condition must be reported to your employer within 21 days, and if your employer is not notified of your injury within 120 days, you will be barred from receiving workers' compensation benefits.
Your employer is then required to notify its insurer of your workplace injury and is required to file a First Report of Injury with the Bureau of Workers' Compensation. Within 21 days of your injury, your employer must either provide compensation to you or issue a denial of your workers' compensation benefits.
If you are receiving any pushback from your employer following your workplace illness or injury, the best decision that you can make is to seek the representation of a seasoned personal injury attorney to help you file your workers' compensation claim. These claims have strict deadlines that must be followed, and failure to meet these deadlines can result in a denial of your claim.
Legal Remedies for Noncompliance by Your Employer
Unless your employer is not required to provide workers' compensation benefits because of one of the exceptions listed above, providing such benefits is mandatory. Your employer is required by the state of Pennsylvania to provide you with these benefits, and noncompliance with the state's Workers' Compensation Act can result in serious penalties to your employer.
If your employer fails to provide such benefits when required, it may face fines of hundreds of dollars per day of noncompliance. These penalties become even more serious if your employer kept you from getting workers' compensation benefits on purpose--in Pennsylvania, intentional noncompliance is a felony charge and can land your employer in jail.
Struggling with Workers' Compensation Benefits? We Can Help
If you find yourself struggling financially in the aftermath of a workplace injury or accident in Pennsylvania, attempting to wade through a workers' compensation claim on your own is the last thing that you should try to do. With Gary Brod by your side, you can rest assured that your claim is being handled by a seasoned personal injury lawyer who is dedicated to obtaining the best possible outcome for your claim. Don't wait any longer to obtain the compensation to which you are entitled--to speak to a member of our legal team about your workers' compensation claim today, fill out an online contact form or call us at 1-888-435-7946.