If you are a member of the Pennsylvania workforce, you might find comfort in knowing that the state's workers' compensation insurance program will provide financial assistance if you should suffer a work-related injury. This is a no-fault system that provides coverage regardless of who was at fault. This means that you can claim benefits even if your own negligence caused your injury.
The aim is to avoid injured workers suing their employers. However, your employer must comply with federal and state safety regulations, which the Occupational Safety and Health Administration governs.
Typical workers' compensation benefits
The circumstances of each injury are unique, and benefits are never guaranteed. However, if your injury occurred in the line of your job, and if you were not involved in horseplay at the time, you might receive the following benefits:
- Medical expenses: This includes visits to the doctor, hospital fees, physical therapy and other treatments along with prescription medications
- Wage replacement: Benefits typically cover a percentage of your average weekly wage if your injuries prevent you from returning to work. Your disability could be total or partial and permanent or temporary, and these factors will determine the benefits awarded.
- Vocational rehabilitation: If your injury causes a disability that prevents you from returning to your usual occupation, vocational rehabilitation can equip you with new skills to secure alternative employment.
- Death benefits: If you suffer a fatal workplace injury, your surviving spouse and your minor children should receive financial assistance with the costs related to a funeral and burial. Furthermore, they should also receive a financial package to help them cope with day-to-day living expenses and financial obligations like rental or mortgage payments.
If a party not linked to your employer caused your injuries, you might have grounds to pursue additional financial relief through the Pennsylvania civil justice system. For example, if a delivery vehicle driven by an employee of another company knocks you down at your workplace, or if a piece of defective equipment causes injuries, you could file a personal injury or product liability lawsuit in a civil court.
You can file such a suit in addition to a workers' compensation benefits claim. A civil lawsuit might provide compensation that is more comprehensive because you can include other financial and emotional damages in your claims. Your employer might even join you in civil litigation to recover the insurance benefits you received.
Under certain circumstances, you might even have a claim against your employer. However, a personal injury claim against your employer is only viable if you can prove gross negligence and serious misconduct. This could include the willful disregard of safety regulations.
Is the prospect daunting?
Navigation of the claims process for workers' compensation benefits might seem daunting while you struggle to recover enough to return to work. Pursuing additional compensation by filing a civil lawsuit might be even more overwhelming. However, you need not go through this on your own. An attorney who has experience in fighting for the right of injured workers through the Pennsylvania workers' compensation and civil justice systems can advocate for you every step of the way.