Can I Sue My Employer If I Got Injured While Working For Them?

Workplace Injury Philadelphia

While there are some Pennsylvania workplaces that are inherently more dangerous than others, employees are at risk of suffering injuries while working in any industry. The losses after any accident affect you physically, financially, and emotionally, impacting areas of your life in ways you did not expect. However, the consequences are even more pronounced when the incident is connected to your job and livelihood. You could miss work because of your injuries, leading to lost wages and benefits. Plus, your medical costs add up, and quality of life suffers.

Fortunately, there are two areas of law in Pennsylvania that protect you if you are injured on the job. For one, the state workers’ compensation system allows you to pursue a claim through your employer’s insurance company. In addition, you may qualify to sue your employer if you got injured while working for them, typically by filing a personal injury lawsuit in court.

There is some overlap with the two remedies after a workplace accident, but the laws for workers’ comp and personal injury are different. To ensure you receive the benefits or monetary damages that you are entitled to by law, retaining a Philadelphia workplace accidents lawyer should be a priority. You can also read on for some useful information about your options. 

Statistics on Workplace Accidents

You might not realize how dangerous a typical workplace can be until you review some of the data. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there are 139,800 recordable cases of nonfatal workplace injuries and occupational diseases reported in Pennsylvania every year. Of these, 81,600 cases affect the injured worker’s wages, as they involve days away, working under a restriction, or dealing with a job transfer.

Some of the most common types of workplace accidents and injuries include:

  • Head injuries from lack of proper fall protection, such as harnesses and guard rails;
  • Broken bones and lacerations related to falls from a height;
  • Spinal cord injuries from accidents due to faulty ladders and scaffolding;
  • Burns from electrocution, explosions, and electrical fires;
  • Abrasions, rashes, and skin conditions from exposure to hazardous materials; and,
  • Injuries from violent crimes perpetrated against a company’s employees.

How Workers’ Compensation Works

In most cases of workplace injuries and occupational diseases, you are covered by Pennsylvania workers’ compensation laws. Under the system, you qualify if you are an actual employee, as opposed to an independent contractor. In addition, you are eligible as long as you were performing work-related tasks and acting within the scope of employment when injured.

The legal process of a Pennsylvania workers’ compensation claim starts when you notify your employer about your injuries. From there, your claim is processed through your employer’s insurance company. You will start receiving benefits if approved, but you may need to go through different levels of appeal or sue in court if the insurer denies your claim.

There are two important points about workers’ compensation to keep in mind:

  1. You do not need to prove that your employer was at fault in causing the accident in which you were injured.
  2. Subject to some exceptions, workers’ comp is your sole remedy in most cases of workplace accidents.

Pennsylvania Personal Injury Claims

When there are exceptions to the workers’ compensation system, an injured employee may qualify to file a personal injury claim. You might seek monetary damages through a lawsuit if you were hurt under one of the following scenarios:

  • Your employer does not carry workers’ comp insurance as required by law.
  • Your employer engaged in intentional acts that resulted in your injuries.
  • A third party, unrelated to your employer, caused the work-related accident.

If you are eligible to file a personal injury lawsuit, you will need to prove fault in a claim against the responsible party. Many of these cases are based upon negligence, which means you must show that the at-fault person or entity failed to exercise reasonable care, causing the accident. 

There are a few industries in which a work-related incident will fall under personal injury laws, typically because of negligence by a third party. In construction, the presence of many crews means any of them could be liable. For any industry that requires or is linked to transportation, traffic accidents are a threat to employees.

Damages for Workplace Accidents

With a workers’ compensation claim, one of the most critical benefits relates to your treatment. You may receive all medical care that is reasonable and necessary to treat your injuries, now and in the future. It is also possible to recover a portion of your wages as replacement for lost income. If you suffer total or partial disability because of an on-the-job accident, you may qualify for temporary or permanent disability payments.

If you qualify to seek monetary damages under a personal injury claim in Pennsylvania, you can recover compensation in two categories:

  1. You can obtain amounts for economic damages, such as medical costs, lost wages, and out-of-pocket expenses to treat your injuries.
  2. You might also recover noneconomic damages, which are intangible, personal losses that result from your injuries. They affect your quality of life, so noneconomic damages may include pain and suffering, emotional distress, and scarring and disfigurement.

As an important note, you cannot obtain amounts for noneconomic damages through a workers’ compensation claim. For this reason, it is to your benefit if you do fall under one of the exceptions. You can recover pain and suffering in a personal injury claim when workers’ comp is not your sole remedy.

Limitations on Victims’ Rights

With both workers’ comp and personal injury claims, there are limitations on your rights even if you are able to meet the eligibility rules and prove essential facts. Most legal matters include time considerations, and one crucial law is the statute of limitations in Pennsylvania. You have 2 years to file a personal injury lawsuit in court, and this period is measured from the date of the workplace accident. If you fail to initiate litigation before the statute of limitations expires, you are forever barred from recovering any compensation in civil court.

Some important deadlines for purposes of Pennsylvania workers’ comp include:

  • You have 21 days from the date of your accident to notify your employer that you were injured.
  • There is a deadline of 120 days to file an official workers’ comp claim regarding your injuries.
  • Your employer’s workers’ comp insurance company has 21 days after receiving notice of your injuries to approve or deny your claim.

In addition, there is a limitation on personal injury claims that is related to misconduct by the injured victim. Pennsylvania follows the law of comparative fault, which could affect your damages if you were negligent in causing a workplace accident. The amount is reduced by the percentage of fault attributed to your actions.

Benefits of Settlement for Work-Related Claims in Pennsylvania

With both personal injury cases and workers’ comp claims, you will likely be dealing with an insurance company. The process for these matters includes opportunities to settle your claim without going to court or different levels of appeals. The advantages of negotiating an agreement are considerable:

  • You gain certainty when you settle, since the terms and amount of compensation are included in a legally binding, written agreement.
  • You will receive payment on your case or monetary benefits in a workers’ comp claim promptly after settlement. The legal process can take several months or even years with litigation.
  • If the idea of testifying in court or before workers’ compensation officials intimidates you, it eases the stress to know that you will not have to take the stand.
  • When you settle, you will likely have the option of receiving a lump sum payment or monthly installments. There are pros and cons to both arrangements, depending on your needs and goals.

Challenges with Insurance Companies

Though you gain advantages when you settle, it is important to realize that insurers can be difficult when reviewing your claim, investigating, and making a determination. These companies are for-profit businesses, and your claim represents a potential loss. The insurer will look for all possible reasons to deny your claim or offer a lowball amount as a counteroffer. The insurance company may allege:

  • You are an independent contractor, not an employee.
  • Your injuries did not occur at work.
  • You were not hurt seriously enough to justify medical treatment or days off work.
  • You were negligent in causing the work-related accident.

Note that the insurer might also have legally valid reasons for denying your claim, including facts about missed deadlines. 

How a Work Accident Lawyer Helps

Whether your circumstances warrant a workers’ comp claim or personal injury case, partnering with a Pennsylvania workplace accidents attorney is essential. Having legal help ensures you start off on the right path as far as your legal remedies. Plus, your lawyer will advocate on your behalf during the claims process and settlement discussions with the insurance company. If the insurer refuses to pay a fair amount, you will have qualified legal support for the next steps. You may sue in court for personal injury or move to levels of appeal with a workers’ comp claim.

Discuss Options with a Philadelphia Workplace Accidents Attorney

It is helpful to know that you can sue your employer if you were injured on the job, but this information should also make you realize the importance of retaining skilled legal representation. Workers’ comp and personal injury laws exist to protect you as an employee, so it is essential to maximize your remedies. At Mattiacci Law, Inc., our team is prepared to fight for you with respect to either option. Please contact us today to schedule a free case review with a skilled Pennsylvania workplace accident lawyer.

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