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Oct 102014
 

By a Philadelphia work accident lawyer

Workers who are injured in accidents while on the job often want to know whether they can sue their employers. In most work accident situations in Pennsylvania, an injured employee or worker will be unable to bring a lawsuit against the employer directly for a tort or negligence claim. However, what most people don’t know is that other, non-employer parties are fair game. Basically, workers injured in Pennsylvania can file lawsuits to obtain financial compensation.

For example, a factory worker in Philadelphia slips and falls because the employer uses worn mats in a habitually wet, high traffic area. The worker slips on the worn mat and suffers serious injuries. In this example, the worker will probably be limited to filing a workers’ compensation claim for the injuries, even though the accident occurred due to the negligence/fault of the employer, i.e., using worn mats in a wet, high traffic area. However, let’s say the mats were brand new, but due to a manufacturing defect, became slippery when wet. The worker may have a valid claim against the company which manufactured or sold the mats (i.e., a defective product injury claim).

Here’s another common example in which an injured worker has a valid non-employer claim. A forklift operator is injured when a forklift malfunctions; the brake system was not working properly. An investigation reveals that the company which maintained the forklift was supposed to have fixed the brake system, but failed to do so. Therefore, the forklift maintenance company would likely be liable for negligent maintenance.

The Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Exclusivity Rule – Why Employees Aren’t Allowed to Sue Employers

Under Pennsylvania’s workers’ compensation laws, employers are usually protected from lawsuits brought by injured employees. This is known as the workers’ compensation exclusivity principle, i.e., the exclusive remedy for an injured worker is workers’ compensation benefits. The theory behind the law is a simple trade-off. By providing workers’ compensation benefits for injured employees, employers can’t be sued. That’s the trade-off – injured workers get workers’ compensation benefits, and in exchange, workers don’t get to sue their employers for work related injuries.

Despite the ban on suing employers directly, workers injured in Pennsylvania are allowed to bring lawsuits against other parties. Common claims for financial compensation in these types of cases include:

  • pain and suffering,
  • medical bills,
  • lost wages, and
  • other economic losses.

Read part 2 of this article, which discusses exceptions to the workers’ compensation exclusivity rule.

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