Is Workers’ Compensation Ever Required in PA?

If you were injured at work, you may have heard that Workers’ Compensation will cover your needs. You may have also heard that you cannot sue for workplace injuries, and that you have to use Workers’ Compensation to seek medical coverage and lost wages for your injury. The Philadelphia Workers’ Compensation lawyers at Lerner, Steinberg & Associates explain what you need to know about Pennsylvania’s Workers’ Compensation system, and when you are required to seek WC coverage instead of suing in court.

Is Workers’ Compensation. Mandatory in PA?

From an employer’s side, Workers’ Compensation is mandatory. Nearly every company needs to have Workers’ Compensation coverage, which can be paid to their workers in the event of an injury. In this respect, Workers’ Compensation is required – but the question is very different from the view of an employee.

When you are injured at work in a way that qualifies for Workers’ Compensation, the PA Workers’ Compensation laws state that you must first file a claim through Workers’ Compensation. Workers’ Compensation is designed to be a “no-fault” system. This helps workers in many ways, the biggest of which is that you don’t need to prove your case in court to get Workers’ Compensation benefits.

Before Workers’ Compensation, injured workers would have had to sue their employer in court for negligence. This requires proving that the employer did something wrong, failed to train you, failed to provide safety equipment, or otherwise allowed the work conditions to grow too dangerous. This system also gave employers dozens of defenses that enabled them to avoid liability, such as defenses for when a fellow coworker caused the injuries. Under Workers’ Compensation, you merely need to show that you were injured at work or suffer from a work-related condition, and you should be covered.

Because there is no need to prove fault, Workers’ Compensation can streamline the process. Since it is typically a faster and simpler process than suing in court, the state has made it a requirement that all qualifying injuries must go through Workers’ Compensation first – and if they are denied WC benefits or the claim fails, then you may be able to sue instead.

What Types of Cases Must Use Workers’ Compensation?

The PA Workers’ Compensation system is designed to handle most workplace injuries, but there are some exceptions. The vast majority of employers are required to carry Workers’ Compensation insurance, and their employees must use this before resorting to a lawsuit. However, in the following situations, the employee may not be able to use Workers’ Compensation or may be able to sue their employer directly instead:

Federal Employees

If you work for the federal government, e.g. for the US Postal Service or a federal courthouse, you typically use a different Workers’ Compensation system. This means that you may not need to follow the same rules that most PA workers’ follow, and you use the federal Workers’ Compensation system instead.

Your Employer Doesn’t Have Workers’ Compensation

If your employer does not have coverage, you may be able to sue instead. The law requires most employers to carry Workers’ Compensation insurance and requires employees to use it so as to reduce the number of lawsuits. But if your boss broke the rules or doesn’t have coverage, you may be able to sue them directly.

Intentional Acts

Workers’ comp. is designed to cover accidents and negligence. This means that the employer will cover your medical expenses and lost wages if you were injured in a freak accident or because of their failure to protect you. However, if your employer intentionally injured you, you do not need to use Workers’ Compensation Instead, you can file a full lawsuit for medical costs and whatever other damages are available.

Product Injury Cases

When you are injured at work because of a defective or dangerous product, you may not have to take Workers’ Compensation Instead, you may be able to sue the manufacturer of the product and hopefully earn higher damages than you would through Workers’ Compensation.

Non-Injury Cases

There are many things you can sue your boss for in Pennsylvania, like sexual harassment, libel, and other employment law issues. However, these are not injuries, and are not covered by Workers’ Compensation. That means that you must file a lawsuit instead of using Workers’ Compensation to pay for these kinds of damages.

Injuries Unrelated to Work

Workers’ Compensation can cover injuries at work, during work hours, as well as injuries that stem from workplace conditions (e.g. poisoning or cancer). However, Workers’ Compensation does not cover injuries you receive at home or after work hours. Sometimes, work-sponsored events and parties may still qualify for WC coverage, but most after-hours or weekend injuries do not.

Philadelphia Workers’ Compensation Lawyers

The Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation attorneys at Lerner, Steinberg & Associates may be able to help if you were injured in a workplace accident or suffer from a work-related condition. If you or a loved one needs help filing for Workers’ Compensation in Pennsylvania, contact our law offices today. For a free consultation on your case, call our law offices at (215) 355-6400.