Are you injured and unable to work? Did you get in a serious accident on the job that has sidelined you for days, weeks or months? If you need legal help for your work-related injuries, we can help. Undoubtedly, you have many questions about what to do if you are injured at work. To learn more about your legal options for work-related injuries, how much you could be eligible to receive from your employer and where you can turn to for legal help, you have come to the right place.
For most employees injured on the job, workers’ compensation will provide wage loss benefits and cover their medical costs and may also provide other benefits. While many workplace injuries occur for obvious reasons — a worker slips and falls on a wet floor, a piece of equipment falls on a worker and injures their shoulder or a truck driver making a delivery is involved in an accident, to give just a few examples — a worker can also suffer injuries that may or may not fall under the guidelines of workers’ compensation.
Often these injuries take place outside the workplace, after hours, at a company event where attendance is voluntary or while traveling to or from work. Yet sometimes, even injuries sustained in these situations can be eligible for workers’ compensation. Much depends on what the worker was doing when they were injured, if they were intoxicated or “under the influence” of drugs at the time they were injured and the place where the injury occurred.
You may have many questions about your workers’ compensation case and your situation. We have compiled the most common questions we hear at our practice and have put together the information we feel you might need. You can contact us 24/7 for information on legal rights for injured workers.
I Got Injured at Work – What Should I Do?
When you get injured at work you should seek immediate medical care, especially if you’re seriously injured and may need emergency or life-saving treatment. Don’t delay.
As soon as you can, report the injury at your place of work and follow up to make sure your workers’ compensation claim is filed correctly. Contact Frommer D’Amico, and we will manage your case at no charge. We don’t charge fees to get your late checks fixed or your injury description corrected. If your claim is denied, we can help fast, often times guiding you to alternative benefits at no charge while we fight your case. You need money to pay the bills. We get it.
Many clients have already worked with us. In fact, our attorneys have secured more than $50 million in settlements for our clients.
What Injuries Qualify for Compensation?
Whether your injury occurred suddenly at work, such as in a slip or fall, or developed over a period of time, such as with carpal tunnel syndrome, you need to show that your injury was connected to your job if you want to collect workers’ compensation benefits. Legally this is known as “arising out of employment and occurring during the course of employment” or AOE/COE. Basically, you need to show that your work caused a medical condition.
Any injury or illness is considered work-related if it was caused by a specific event at work, caused by repetitive work, or if exposure to any chemical or substance while at work contributed to its development.
1. On-the-Clock Versus Off-the-Clock Injuries
Any injury that occurs during the regular workday will almost certainly be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. That holds true whether you are at your place of employment or working off-site. The only possible exceptions to this are if you are taking your lunch break away from work or if you have asked to be excused for an hour to go to an outside appointment not connected with work and you are injured while on your way to or from the appointment. However, there are exceptions where travelling employees are covered for injuries while travelling, even if you are eating dinner for example.
Off-the-clock injuries may or not be eligible for workers’ compensation. For instance, if you have finished work for the day and you are on your way to your car in the company parking lot and you slip and fall, you’re probably eligible for workers’ compensation. The moment you leave the parking lot and begin your drive home, however, if you are injured in an accident, you may no longer be eligible.
The same is true if you are injured on your way to work in the morning or going home in the evening. This is not considered eligible for workers’ compensation. If you are injured while taking a business phone call on your way to or from work, however, you may be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. Also, certain travelling employees may be covered if travelling is part of your job.
Often determining whether off-the-clock injuries are eligible for workers’ comp benefits depends on what you were doing at the time.
For instance, if your official workday day does not start until 9 a.m. but your boss has told you the day before to pick up donuts for an early morning meeting, and you are injured while picking up the donuts, you may be eligible for workers’ compensation. The same is true is if you’re picking up your boss’s dry cleaning after work. Or if you are a traveling salesperson, and you’re on your way to meet with a client in the morning. If you are injured while doing anything that is work-related or that your employer has instructed you to do, you are eligible for workers’ compensation.
2. On-Site Injury Versus Pre-Existing Condition
An on-site injury can sometimes be more than just what people traditionally think of as being on-site. Depending upon the nature of your job, and where you perform your job-related duties, you don’t necessarily have to be located at your actual place of work. While almost all injuries that occur at a traditional job site will be covered by workers’ compensation, if you are working for the day at home because your place of employment offers that kind of flexibility or you have traveled to another city for an important meeting, these can be looked at as being injured “on-site.”
Many people may believe that if they have a pre-existing condition and it is made worse because of a job-related injury that they will not be covered by workers’ compensation. This is not the case. For instance, if you had a pre-existing back problem, and your job required you to lift a heavy object, and you injured your back again, your injury would very likely be covered by workers’ compensation. This is because the new injury “aggravated” the pre-existing condition.
Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act says that an employer must provide wage loss and medical benefits to an employee who aggravates a pre-existing condition. The employer must do this whether this condition is visible or known to the employee or even if the employee did not know about it.
As well, this pre-existing condition does not need to be connected to anything that may have previously happened at work. For instance, if an employee was injured in a car accident before or after taking a job, if the injury sustained in the car accident is made worse as a result of work activities, the employee is eligible for workers’ compensation benefits.
3. Doing Your Job Versus Horseplay on the Job
If you are performing duties that are associated with your job and you are injured, you are eligible for workers’ compensation. If, however, you’re on your job site and you suffer an injury while you are engaged in horseplay with, or pulling a practical joke on, your fellow employees, then it’s possible you will not be eligible for workers’ comp benefits.
This is also the case for any fights in the workplace. If you and a fellow employee get into a fist fight over your favorite football teams and you are injured, you may not be eligible for workers’ compensation even if you are on the job site.
Like most workers’ compensation rules, however, there can be exceptions to these situations. If you and your fellow employees regularly engage in horseplay and your boss ignores or tolerates it, then you may be able to argue in favor of receiving workers’ comp benefits. Also, if your fellow employees are engaged in horseplay, and you are an innocent bystander but are injured as a result of their activities, you may be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits.
As far as fighting with a coworker is concerned, while you are not covered if you are fighting about a football game, if the fight occurs because you have criticized a coworker’s work habits, and they hit you and injure you after you have made these comments, you also may be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits.
If you are injured on a job, regardless of the circumstances, assume that you are eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. Report the injury to your boss or your supervisor immediately, seek medical attention and contact a workers’ compensation lawyer as soon as possible.
Common Types of Workers’ Compensation Injuries
Many people may think that injuries such as broken legs or broken arms may be the most common injuries sustained in the workplace. But a 2016 study by The Travelers Companies, one of the United States’ largest workers’ compensation insurance companies found that not to be the case.
According to statistics gathered by Travelers from more than 1.5 million nationwide workers’ compensation claims filed between 2010 and 2014 from businesses in different industries and of different sizes, the top five injuries as a percentage of total claims were:
- Sprains and strains, which comprise 30 percent of all claims.
- Cuts or punctures, which make up 19 percent of claims.
- Contusions were 12 percent.
- Inflammations comprise 5 percent.
- Broken legs and arms or fractures also comprise 5 percent.
Sprains and strains were the most common injuries in every size and type of business or industry, except for small businesses where cuts and punctures occurred most frequently.
The injuries which carry the highest workers’ compensation costs were dislocations, amputations, crushing, electrical shock and traumas that included breaking several bones at once.
Handling materials were the most frequent cause of workplace injuries, making up 32 percent of all claims. They were especially common in the manufacturing and retail industries, accounting for 37 percent of the claims in those fields. Other causes included:
- Falls, slips and trips were responsible for 16 percent.
- Colliding with or being struck by an object was responsible for 10 percent.
- Tool accidents were 7 percent of all injuries. Small businesses saw the most tool-related accidents at 13 percent of all small business claims.
- Injuries that occurred over time, also known as cumulative trauma injuries, as a result of strain or overuse were 4 percent.
Falls from a height were among the common injuries in construction and retail. Motor vehicle accidents were common in the oil and gas industry, and eye injuries frequently occurred in manufacturing and construction.
Inflammation and fractures resulted in missing the most time from work. Workers suffering from inflammation missed an average of 91 days while workers with fractures missed 78 days. Strains and sprains on average resulted in missing 57 days of work while workers suffering from punctures and cuts missed 24 workdays.
Injuries suffered as a result of cumulative trauma are one of the largest growing areas of workers’ compensation claims. This is largely due to the number of jobs that now require computer use or service industry jobs that require repetitive daily motions.
These cumulative trauma injuries are also called repetitive strain or stress injuries (RSIs). These injuries are increasingly resulting in workers’ compensation claims, as we noted above. While most people think of an RSI resulting from overuse of a computer keyboard or a mouse, they can also be suffered by home health workers who need to constantly move their patients or silkscreen printers whose repetitive pulling motions needed to create a work of art often lead to carpal tunnel, for instance.
Many of the above injuries occur as a result of similar activities regardless of the business or industry in question.
What Types of Work Injuries Happen Most Often in Pennsylvania?
In Pennsylvania, the most common work-related injuries are work-related musculoskeletal injuries — especially strains and sprains. Surprisingly, this is true across all industries. In 2018, 33% of all reported injuries among agricultural workers were strains and sprains. In the public administration field, 1,452 injuries, or 31.8% of injuries in 2018, were related to strains and sprains.
While strains and sprains are the most common injury among all sectors, the way injuries were sustained varied. In 2018, overexertion caused 30.4% of injuries in manufacturing fields while 740 injuries, or 22% of injuries in the financial sector, were caused by falls.
The different types of work-related injuries in Pennsylvania include a variety of injuries:
- Strain and sprain injuries (accounting for 37.3% of injuries in Pennsylvania in 2018)
- Bruising, contusions and crushing injuries (accounting for 19.5% of injuries in Pennsylvania in 2018)
- Other injuries (accounting for 16.5% of injuries in Pennsylvania in 2018)
- Lacerations, cuts, and punctures (accounting for 16.0% of injuries in Pennsylvania in 2018)
- Fractures (accounting for 4% of injuries in Pennsylvania in 2018)
- Multiple injury types (accounting for 2.4% of injuries in Pennsylvania in 2018)
- Work-related illness (accounting for 2% of injuries in Pennsylvania in 2018)
- Burns caused by exposure to chemicals or heat (workers compensation for burns accounts for 1.9% of injuries in Pennsylvania in 2018)
- Loss of use, amputation and enucleation injuries (accounting for 0.2% of injuries in Pennsylvania in 2018)
Work-related injuries statistics show that upper extremities are the most likely to be affected by workplace injuries in Pennsylvania. 38% of all work injuries reported in Pennsylvania in 2015 affected the upper extremities. Injuries to the trunk and abdomen accounted for 17.5% of injuries, while injuries to the lower extremities represented 22.3% of all injuries.
Injuries can also be classified by method of injury. In 2018, 25.3% of injuries in Pennsylvania were from overexertion, 10% were fall injuries occurring on one level, while 2.6% of injuries involved a fall from a height. A reported 0.1% of injuries were related to electricity.
View the full 2018 Workplace Safety Annual Report.
My Employer Claims My Injury Is Not Covered Under Workers’ Comp
Most workers in Pennsylvania are covered, including part-time and full-time workers. Sometimes, employers misclassify workers as contractors or self-employed workers to avoid paying premiums. If you think this has happened to you or if your employer is trying to claim you weren’t injured at work, help is available. Contact Frommer D’Amico for an in-depth analysis of your situation if you are unsure of what to do if you got injured at work and your employer is making these claims. We will look over all the documentation and contracts to ensure you are not losing out on money that should be coming to you.
PA Workers’ Compensation Exemptions
In Pennsylvania, any business that employs at least one person is required to provide workers’ compensation. And employees are eligible for workers’ compensation from the first day they begin a job. This is true whether they are working part-time or full-time.
However, there are some exceptions under Pennsylvania law. Employees in these fields cannot apply for workers’ compensation:
- Federal workers and military, who are covered by federal legislation for workplace injuries.
- Railroad workers, who are covered under a separate act.
- Longshoremen and harbor workers, who also have their own system of workers’ compensation.
- Independent contractors or casual workers, whose work is casual in nature and not related to the regular business activities of the person who employs them.
- Seasonal agricultural workers who earn no more than $1,200 during a calendar year and work no more than 30 days in a calendar year.
- The spouse and children of farmers who perform agricultural labor. However, once children turn 18, they must be covered by workers’ compensation.
- Domestic workers who have decided not to be covered by the Workers’ Compensation Act.
- The sole proprietor of a business or a general partner.
- People who have been granted exceptions by the Department of Labor and industry because of their religious beliefs.
- Executive officers granted an exclusion by the department.
- Licensed real estate salespeople or real estate brokers who are paid on a commission only basis and thus qualify as independent contractors for tax purposes.
Where Can I Turn for Legal Help for Work-Related Injuries?
It’s easy to see why making a workers’ compensation claim can be difficult. And that’s not considering what happens if your original claim is denied and you need to make an appeal.
The attorneys at Frommer D’Amico are certified workers’ compensation specialists in Pennsylvania. Our goal is to make sure you get all the benefits which you are eligible to receive and save you money at the same time. We can help you with all aspects of the worker’ comp process, from filing your claim to dealing with late checks or delays.
We not only offer a free initial consultation, but we also do free case management for our clients which means you will pay much less than you would at other firms. For a free consultation, contact us today.
If you have been injured at work, any serious injury can be devastating and can affect your ability to work. If you would like to know more, or if you need help because your workers’ compensation benefits have been denied or delayed, contact us for a free consultation. We have secured more than $50 million in settlements on behalf of clients and serves clients across Pennsylvania. If you have been injured and have questions, contact us right away.