Workers who are seriously injured in work related accidents in Pennsylvania are often confused about their legal rights to financial compensation. In general, injured workers in Pennsylvania have legal rights to file two types of cases or claims.
First, injured workers may file workers’ compensation claims. Second, workers may file tort claims. While most injured workers are aware of the right to file for workers’ compensation benefits, many workers are completely unaware of the right to file tort claims. This article will discuss both types of claims and general eligibility requirements for each.
Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Benefits
In a nutshell, injured workers can obtain medical treatment and in cases of temporary or permanent disability, indemnity payments (lost wage payments). Generally, injured workers can receive medical treatment which will be paid for by the employer (or the employer’s work comp insurance company).
Injured workers can also receive indemnity payments when the injuries result in the inability to return to work. However, under the law, indemnity payments provide a certain percentage of an injured worker’s average weekly wage; there are caps or maximum amounts set by statute. Therefore, an injured worker who receives indemnity payments will not receive the full amount of lost wages.
In order to be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits under Pennsylvania law, the worker must have been injured while at work or otherwise in the course of business for the employer (i.e., a delivery truck driver gets injured in a car-truck accident). In addition, there are very specific notice requirements. Under Pennsylvania workers’ compensation laws, injured workers must provide notice to their employers. Failure to do so within the mandated time frames may result in denial of benefits. Click here to read more about eligibility requirements for workers’ comp in Pennsylvania and the time limitations for providing notice.
Pennsylvania Tort Claims in Work Accident Cases
There are many types of civil tort cases, such as car accident cases, medical malpractice cases, and work accident cases. Work accident lawsuits in Pennsylvania may be filed against non-employer parties. Basically, under Pennsylvania law, injured workers are barred from suing employers for work related accidents. There are some narrow exceptions to this rule. For instance, in limited cases, an injured worker may be able to sue the employer where the employer fails to provide workers’ compensation benefits.
Work accident lawsuits against non-employer parties are known as third party claims or lawsuits. Here are some examples of non-employer parties in these types of lawsuits:
- a general contractor on a construction site,
- a maintenance contractor at an office building,
- a product manufacturer of a piece of equipment at a factory.
Unlike workers’ compensation claims, there are no initial eligibility requirements for filing work accident lawsuits. For instance, in the vast majority of work accident cases, there are no notice requirements, unless the at-fault party is a government entity (federal, state, city, or county). It is important to note that work accident lawsuits in Pennsylvania must comply with the applicable statute of limitations period. In the majority of cases, the statutory period will be 2 years from the date of the accident. If a work accident lawsuit is filed too late, the case will be dismissed.
There are two important legal issues which must be resolved before filing a lawsuit for a work accident in Pennsylvania. First is the issue of liability or fault and identifying the responsible parties. Second is the issue of damages and determining whether the damages or injuries justify filing a lawsuit. If an injury is minor, such as a sprained wrist that heals fully, the costs of a lawsuit will exceed the benefit (i.e., fair financial compensation).
In order to determine liability/fault and in order to properly identify the potential parties, the case must be evaluated by a work accident lawyer, someone with experience handling third party lawsuits.
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