Employer’s Responsibilities for Injured Workers in Pennsylvania

Employer’s Responsibilities for Injured Workers

Generally, employers have a duty to provide a safe work environment for their employees. However, work accidents happen even under the best of circumstances. A worker may be injured while following all safety precautions. 

For example, the Pennsylvania workers’ compensation system provides a remedy for workers injured on the job. Injured workers may receive medical treatment and a portion of lost wages after a work injury, but this depends on each State.

In return, the worker gives up the right to sue the employer for personal injury damages. The system ensures that the injured worker receives the care and support necessary for them to heal and return to the workforce.

Workers’ compensation is a no-fault insurance system. A worker does not need to prove the employer was negligent to receive benefits. Likewise, a worker who is partially to blame for the cause of their injury may still receive workers’ comp benefits

Is Workers’ Compensation Mandatory in Pennsylvania?

Workers’ compensation requirements apply to employers with at least one employee who could be injured or develop a work-related illness. The employer must have workers’ compensation coverage under the Workers’ Compensation Act.

Most companies purchase workers’ compensation insurance coverage from private insurance companies. There is also the State Workers’ Compensation Insurance Fund. It is a state-run worker’s compensation insurance carrier.

Some large employers may qualify to be self-insured. However, they must obtain approval from the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation to be self-insured. 

Employer Requirements and Obligations Under the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation System

In addition to providing workers’ compensation insurance coverage, employers in Pennsylvania must:

Notify Employees of Workers’ Compensation Rights

An employer must provide notice to employees that describe a worker’s rights after a work-related injury. The notices must be placed in common areas where employees have access. In addition, new employees should be given a written statement of their rights.

Notices must contain the name and contact information of the employer’s workers’ compensation insurance company. The company must also provide a list of at least six physicians approved to treat injured workers. Workers may choose any doctor on the approved list for treatment. 

Employers also have a responsibility to explain what employees should do if they are injured on the job. Employers must also notify employees about the rules and procedures for filing workers’ compensation claims.

Provide Emergency Medical Care for Injured Workers

Employers have a responsibility to assist workers in obtaining emergency medical care after a work injury. 

An employer should call for appropriate emergency medical services after a work accident. In addition, the employer must provide necessary and reasonable follow-up care without restriction. Injured employees may seek care from any medical provider in an emergency. 

Notify the Insurance Provider

An employer must notify its workers’ compensation insurance carrier of a work-related injury. The notification should occur within one workday of being informed an employee sustained an injury. 

Provide Employees with Claims Forms

The employer should provide an injured worker with forms to file a claim within one workday. The employer should also provide the injured worker with written instructions about filing a workers’ comp claim.

What Happens if an Employer Does Not Have Workers’ Compensation Coverage in Pennsylvania?

Employers could face numerous penalties if they do not have workers’ comp coverage. Uninsured employers may be required to reimburse the Uninsured Employers Guaranty Fund for any monies paid for a claim. The reimbursement may include:

  • Actual claim costs
  • Fees
  • Interest
  • Penalties
  • Attorney fees

The Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry may prosecute an uninsured employer for criminal charges. Uninsured employers could be charged with fines and face imprisonment.

Employees may use uninsured employers for damages under tort law. The injured worker may receive compensation in excess of what the worker would receive as workers’ comp benefits. Compensation for a tort claim may include:

  • The cost of medical treatment and medical expenses
  • The expenses for long-term nursing or personal care
  • All loss of income, including past and future lost wages and diminished earning capacity
  • Out-of-pocket expenses and costs
  • Pain and suffering caused by injuries
  • Impairments, disabilities, scarring, and disfigurement
  • Suffering caused by mental anguish and emotional distress
  • Loss of enjoyment of life
  • Diminished quality of life

Can the Injured Worker Seek Legal Counsel?

An injured worker has the right to seek legal counsel after a work accident. The injured worker may hire a lawyer to assist the worker in filing a workers’ compensation claim. In addition, the lawyer may assist the worker in filing a personal injury lawsuit against an uninsured employer. Lawyers also assist injured employees when employers fail in any responsibility owed to the worker. 

Read More
Are Conflicts of Interest Common in Family Law?

Are Conflicts of Interest Common in Family Law?

A conflict of interest occurs when a person would harm the interests of one party with whom they are associated by working for the interests of another party with whom they are also associated. In the family law context, this typically regards situations where a firm or attorney has represented in the past, or currently represents, a party or individual whose interest is in direct conflict with a current or potential client. 

Why is a Conflict of Interest Problematic?

 Every person who hires an attorney is entitled to have “conflict-free counsel,” meaning they should be able to hire an attorney or firm that will represent that client’s best interests – and only that client’s best interests – with respect to that client’s case. If you hire an attorney for a divorce, and the attorney previously represented your soon-to-be-ex in another matter, that would create a conflict of interest. Or you may hire an attorney for a custody matter and then discover that the attorney knows your ex and the children personally from school or through sports. The attorney now has a conflict of interest. This is because that fact or relationship may influence the decisions they make in a case to avoid problems with that outside relationship. Any conflict or potential conflict should be disclosed to the client.

How Can I Identify and Avoid Conflicts of Interest?

 Conflicts of interest can cause problems for both clients and law firms. Attorneys and firms have an obligation to be compliant with ethics rules. The State Bar of California issues Rules of Professional Responsibility, which are adopted by the Supreme Court of California. These rules specifically identify when a conflict exists and what should be done to potentially avoid conflicts of interest

It is important to be upfront with any attorney you meet with as to who the other party in your case is (or will be). You should provide, for example, your spouse’s name, ex-spouse or ex-partner’s name, place of employment of all parties, and where the children go to school; these are some key pieces of information the attorney will want to know so they can screen for a conflict of interest. Many times an intake questionnaire will be filled out or discussed during the initial consultation in order to identify any potential conflicts. 

 Take time to do some research into your attorney or the firm you are seeking to hire; a conflict would exist if they formerly represented your ex or if they have any financial interest in your ex’s place of employment or residence. Overall, these conflicts of interest are not too common in large metropolitan areas. They are more likely to occur in smaller areas or where an attorney handles multiple practice areas, as these factors increase the likelihood that they previously represented someone else involved in the case or that they have some sort of relationship with that person or entity. 

Can I Waive a Conflict?

 There are some exceptions or waivers allowed but only with the consent of all parties involved. Once the risks of the conflict are fully explained, and all parties are informed, the conflict may be waived so long as the consent was freely and voluntarily made. If additional risks arise, that waiver must be updated. Lawyers may not represent a client whose interests are materially adverse to a former client. The key is to be sure that you consult with an experienced attorney to assist you with your family law case, one who is thorough in their consultation so as to avoid any unexpected or foreseeable conflicts of interest.

Read More