By a Philadelphia work injury lawyer
Work accident and injury lawsuits are one of the most common types of tort lawsuits filed in Philadelphia. This is due in large part to the extent of construction, factory and industrial activity in and around the Philadelphia area, including Montgomery County, Delaware County and Bucks County.
At the outset, it’s important to note that the vast majority of injured workers are misinformed about their legal rights to compensation after a work accident occurs. Time and time again, injured workers come to our offices wanting to discuss workers’ compensation benefits only. They don’t know that they have perfectly valid legal claims which are separate and distinct from workers’ compensation. These claims are commonly referred to as “third party claims.”
Below is basic information about work injury lawsuits (third party claims) in the context of Philadelphia work accident cases.
Philadelphia Law Firm Work Injury Case Results: Over $150 million recovered for workers injured in PA and NJ
What to Know if You Want to File a Work Accident and Injury Lawsuit in Philadelphia
There are three critical issues to evaluate if you are thinking about filing a work accident and injury lawsuit in Philadelphia:
- how workers’ compensation differs from lawsuits,
- whether you have a valid work injury lawsuit, and
- the importance of prompt, proper investigation.
Two Key Differences Between Workers’ Compensation Benefits and Tort Lawsuits
1. Financial Recovery via Workers’ Compensation vs. Tort Lawsuits
The claims for financial recovery vary widely between the workers’ compensation scheme and tort lawsuits. Under the workers’ compensation scheme, injured workers can only seek medical treatment (free of charge) and can obtain indemnity or lost pay.
Generally, residents of Philadelphia who are injured in work accidents can make workers’ compensation claims for medical bills and indemnity (lost pay due to temporary or permanent disability). In severe injury cases, special workers’ compensation benefits, such as specific loss benefits, are available for amputation or loss of use/function injuries.
In addition, the amount of indemnity payments are set by statute and are based on the injured worker’s average weekly wage. Under Pennsylvania’s workers’ compensation laws, indemnity payments are usually capped, depending on the average weekly wage. Usually, injured workers receive no more than roughly 66% of their average weekly wages. This is hardly enough to keep families afloat and therefore acts as an incentive to get back to work.
There is no ability to seek compensation for pain and suffering under Pennsylvania’s workers’ compensation system. However, in tort lawsuits, injured workers can make claims for pain and suffering, in addition to medical bills, lost wages (full amount) and other out of pocket expenses (home health care/help, child care, etc.).
Related: Steps in a Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Claim This article explains the basic steps in a workers’ compensation claim in Pennsylvania.
2. The Issue of Fault or Liability
The workers’ compensation scheme in PA was designed to provide specific benefits to workers who are injured on the job without regard to fault or liability. Therefore, it makes no difference who was at fault in causing the accident. If you’re injured at work, you can make a claim for workers’ compensation. This applies if the worker, the employer or a third party caused the accident.
On the other hand, tort or accident lawsuits for work injuries are based on a determination of fault or liability. Basically, the defendant(s) must have been negligent in causing the accident. Generally, employers cannot be sued in a tort lawsuit for having caused a work accident. However, other parties such as outside contractors, subcontractors and even product manufacturers can be held liable. The typical case involves a workplace fall accident that occurs due to the negligence of an outside company. While the employer cannot be sued in a subsequent work injury lawsuit, the outside company can.
Do You Have a Work Injury Lawsuit?
Determining whether you have a valid work injury lawsuit requires an analysis of the evidence. Usually, Philadelphia work injury and accident cases hinge on two critical elements: proof of negligence and proof of damages. There must be sufficient evidence of both the defendant’s negligent conduct and evidence of the injuries and damages. In addition, work injury cases are often very complex and costly. Therefore, the injuries must warrant filing a lawsuit. If a work injury accident results in a sprained ankle with no residual effects, it would be cost-prohibitive to file a lawsuit. On the other hand, it would be beneficial to proceed where a work injury results in a broken ankle with permanent symptoms.
Related: Philadelphia Work Accidents & Injuries – Evidence of Injuries in Civil Work Accident Lawsuits (February 19, 2015) Presenting sufficient evidence of injuries in a work accident and injury lawsuit in Philadelphia can be complex. Learn about some of the nuances in presenting evidence in work accident cases in PA.
The Importance of Prompt, Proper Investigation
The last issue to consider when deciding whether to proceed with a work injury lawsuit in Philadelphia is the investigation. Investigation must be both prompt and thorough.
Time and time again, injured workers make the mistake of waiting too long to consult with a work injury lawyer. Oftentimes, the hours, days and weeks after a work injury are the most crucial from an investigation standpoint. Physical evidence may be lost and witnesses are harder to locate as time goes on. For example, in a scaffold collapse case, it is important to obtain evidence such as pictures of the scaffold immediately after the accident. Pictures can prove that the collapse was caused by negligent construction of the scaffold.
In addition, work accidents especially ones which occur at construction sites, factories or other industrial worksites are often very complex. Knowledge of applicable Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) regulations is crucial in identifying the cause of the accident and determining who was negligent. Get more information about OSHA violations in the workplace.
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