Table of Contents:
- Employment Status and Your Workers’ Compensation Claim
- Infographic – What Happens if I Quit?
- When You Shouldn’t Quit
- When You Should Consider Quitting
- Forced Resignation: What Is It?
- Exceptions You Should Know About If You Already Quit
- Before You Quit Your Job
It’s a question that every worker with a serious injury in Pennsylvania has considered — “What happens with my workers’ comp if I quit my job?” If you are injured on the job in Pennsylvania and are getting workers’ compensation benefits, it doesn’t necessarily mean you are locked into your employment. Many things can happen that may make you want to move away from your job.
Employment Status and Your Workers’ Compensation Claim
The good news is that in Pennsylvania, workers’ compensation claims are based on your status of employment when the injury occurred. Quitting your job shouldn’t automatically disqualify you from workers’ compensation benefits. If you were employed at the time of the work-related injury and you qualify for workers’ compensation, you should be eligible for benefits. Your Pennsylvania employer is required by law to pay for workers’ compensation insurance for you as long as you are employed.
However, quitting your job can complicate matters.
Infographic – What Happens if I Quit?
Your employer will argue you are not entitled to benefits because you voluntarily quit your job. You will have to show that you left because of your work injury. Also, quitting a job can complicate your eligibility for unemployment compensation benefits in Pennsylvania. There are many aspects of your workers’ comp claim that could be changed because you quit your job.
When You Shouldn’t Quit
The question of whether you should leave your job after a work-related injury can depend on several factors. The first thing to know is that, under Pennsylvania law, if you suffer a work-related injury, you are entitled to receive workers’ compensation benefits. Any company in Pennsylvania that has even one employee is required to carry workers’ compensation insurance. You receive coverage the first day you start on the job. There are some exceptions to this rule like independent contractors, volunteers or federal government employees, but for the most part, an employee at any business in Pennsylvania is covered by workers’ compensation.
Workers’ compensation in Pennsylvania is a no-fault system. This means it does not matter if you or your employer are responsible for your work-related injury — you are eligible for workers’ compensation. If you take part in the workers’ compensation system, however, you cannot sue your employer.
Additionally, you don’t have to be injured in your workplace if you are injured while you are doing your job. For instance, if a truck driver employed by a company in Pennsylvania drives throughout the Northeast and suffers an accident while driving for the company in Massachusetts, the Pennsylvania employer is still required to pay workers’ compensation. The important thing is to be able to show that your injury happened while you were doing a work-related activity regardless of where that work took place.
Under workers’ compensation, you are entitled to three basic benefits:
1. Wage Replacement Benefits
If your doctor places you on light or limited work duty or says that you should not work at all and your employer accepts your claim, workers’ compensation will pay you two-thirds of your average weekly wage. In Pennsylvania, the most a worker can receive in 2019 is $1,220 a week.
2. Medical Treatment
These benefits cover all medical expenses that relate to your work injury including doctors’ visits, prescriptions or medications, any specialized medical treatments you might need, physical therapy, the mileage you incur while traveling to or from doctors’ office, any emergency room visits and any x-rays or MRIs.
3. Permanent Disability Compensation
You may suffer from a partial disability or total disability. If you have suffered a partial disability, you are eligible to receive payments for your work-related injury for up to 500 weeks or 9½ years. If your injury has left you totally unable to work, you can receive workers’ comp benefits indefinitely.
If you have suffered a permanent total disability such as losing a limb or losing the use of a body part such as an eye or an arm, you can receive what is known as a Special Loss benefit. A Special Loss benefit, which is calculated using a special schedule that guarantees you so many weeks of compensation depending upon the percentage of loss in your body part, will be paid to you regardless of whether you return to your job or find another job.
If you decide to quit your job after you have filed a workers’ compensation claim, you will still receive medical benefits depending on a doctor’s evaluation of your condition. If you have suffered a total disability, your payments should continue, and if your injury fell under the Special Loss guidelines, you can still receive those payments or negotiate a lump sum payment with your employer’s insurance company.
But if you only have a partial disability, you will probably lose your right to receive wage replacement benefits and any other possible compensation. So if you have not suffered a permanent disability as a result of a work-related injury, it’s probably a good idea to stay on the job for as long as you can.
You should also seek out the advice of a workers’ compensation attorney who can advise you on your best course of action if you think you must leave your job.
When You Should Consider Quitting
There may be situations, however, when it makes sense to leave your job. For instance, if your employer gives you a new job based on the restrictions that your doctor has outlined in your treatment plan, but the work is tedious and unrewarding, and you know you could probably earn more money if you applied at another job, it may make sense to leave your current position.
Remember, if you leave, you will still be eligible for medical benefits through workers’ compensation from your previous employer if you were injured while working for them.
It may also be possible to leave your job if you feel uncomfortable or unsafe if you return to your employer. In this case, it may be possible for you to retain your medical benefits as well as your wage loss benefits and any other partial disability benefits.
You need to prove, however, that your workplace is unsafe and that you no longer feel comfortable working there. If this is your situation, you should speak to an experienced workers’ compensation attorney as soon as possible. They can help you prepare your case and the evidence to prove any allegations about an unsafe workplace. These claims often require highly specific evidence to show that you left your job with just cause.
Forced Resignation: What Is It?
You may not want to leave your job but feel that your employer is trying to force you to quit. It’s essential that you know the workers’ compensation rules about this topic:
- It is illegal for your employer to fire or terminate you because you have filed a workers’ compensation claim in Pennsylvania. It is also illegal for them to try to force you to resign because of your workers’ compensation claim.
- It is possible, however, for you to lose your job while you are on workers’ compensation. Employers and insurance companies can come up with many excuses to do this. They may argue that they had layoffs planned before you were injured on the job, and those layoffs included your position. They may say that you were not meeting company standards before you were injured, and they were planning to fire you anyway.
Even if your company doesn’t try any of these tricks, they can still try to force you to quit your job. They can intentionally give you a restricted or a limited job that they know you will not like, or they can make your work life so difficult that you will not want to stay. Employers do these things to avoid paying workers’ compensation claims or unemployment benefits. They know that if an employee leaves of their own free will, it’s less likely they will be able to receive full workers’ compensation benefits, and they probably won’t receive any unemployment benefits.
If you believe that your employer has forced you to resign, however, and you can show that their treatment of you forced you to make that decision, this is not the same situation as an employee who voluntarily leaves the job. According to the law, if your employer forces you to quit or creates a work environment that is so hostile and miserable that any reasonable person would not want to continue being employed in that situation, this is the same as termination, and it is illegal.
Again, if you find yourself in this situation, talk to a workers’ comp lawyer as soon as possible. If you feel that your employer has forced you to resign, you should still retain your right to all of your workers’ compensation benefits.
Exceptions You Should Know About If You Already Quit
If you are injured on the job and file a workers’ compensation claim but then leave your place of employment, you will still retain your right to some of your workers’ compensation benefits. Depending on your specific situation, you might retain all of your benefits.
If you quit your job before you filed a workers’ compensation claim, it is much harder to prove your claim. Count on facing much more scrutiny when you do file a claim. While it is true that the validity of your claim depends upon when the injury was suffered and not on when you file, you may have a difficult time proving your eligibility for benefits.
Employers and insurance companies are very suspicious when employees make claims after they quit a job. They see this as a way for a former employee to collect a weekly wage even though people who voluntarily leave their jobs are not eligible for unemployment benefits.
To prove your injury took place at your previous job, you will probably need to provide a statement from a coworker or superior who witnessed your accident. There may be video footage that is available from your workplace. If you went to an emergency room after you were injured, there may be medical records you can use to prove when the accident happened.
It is always important to report an accident to your employer or supervisor as soon as it happens. You should do it even if you are thinking about leaving your job. Under Pennsylvania law, that notification needs to be given to your employer, your supervisor or someone in a similar position. You cannot casually mention it to a coworker that you may have hurt yourself. That is not considered notification.
You also need to pay attention to Pennsylvania’s statute of limitations for reporting a work-related injury. Notice of your injury must be given within 21 days or else no compensation may be awarded until your employer is officially notified. An employee, or a former employee, has up to 120 days to notify their employer, or their former employer, of a work-related injury. If you fail to notify your employer of a work-related injury after 120 days, in most cases your claim will be denied or not even considered.
There can be exceptions to this, but you should talk with an experienced workers’ compensation attorney if you were injured on a previous job but have failed to notify your former employer within the 120-day timeline.
Before You Quit Your Job
Your best option is to speak with an experienced workers’ compensation attorney if you are considering quitting your job at any point before or after filing your workers’ comp claim. An attorney can review your reasons with you and offer you representation as well as legal advice. If you’re considering leaving your job because you face discrimination or problems arise as a result of your workers’ compensation filing, your employer may not be acting in good faith and may even be breaking the law.
In Pennsylvania, you are protected under the law and should not be fired for filing your workers’ compensation claim or feeling pressured because of how you are being treated at work. A Pennsylvania workers’ compensation attorney can review your legal options. If you’re considering quitting because you are injured or don’t enjoy your job anymore, an attorney can work with you to ensure your change in employment status doesn’t impact your benefits.
If you need to speak to a workers’ compensation attorney, contact My Comp Lawyers. Our team consists of certified Pennsylvania workers’ compensation specialists, and we work hard to save you extra money. We work to ensure you get the benefits you are entitled to and resolve any issues such as late checks or delays.
While many attorneys offer a free initial consultation, we also offer free case management, potentially saving you thousands of dollars to make sure more of your compensation check ends up where it should — your pocket. Contact us today for a consultation.
Joe D’Amico has more than 20 years of experience fighting for injured workers. He is Certified as an Expert in Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Law by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania. Joe is one of the very few Pennsylvania workers’ compensation attorneys who have obtained a recovery in excess of $1.5 million for an injured worker.
Reviewed by Joe D’Amico.