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    PA Workers’ Comp: Who is Considered an Employee for Purposes of Benefits?

    Due to the potential financial ramifications, ordinary working people in Pennsylvania often ask whether they are considered “employees” under Pennsylvania’s workers’ comp laws. This is a good and important question that our Lancaster workers’ comp lawyer will answer below. However, the answer is best given in context, and a brief overview of Pennsylvania’s workers’ comp laws can help with that.

    In any event, if you have suffered a work-related injury in Pennsylvania, let a Lancaster workers’ comp lawyer help you be sure you’re receiving maximum compensation for your work-related injuries.

    Workers’ Comp in Pennsylvania

    Workers’ comp in Pennsylvania can be described as a compromise, or trade-off, between employers and employees, designed to keep personal injury cases involving work-related injuries out of the court system.

    Under Pennsylvania law, workers’ comp pays out certain financial benefits for employees who are injured at work and their dependents, even if there is no fault by the employer. However, here comes the trade-off: workers’ comp laws also protect employers from being sued for job-related injuries or deaths, even if the employer was at fault or maintained a dangerous workplace environment. This limits the types of damages a plaintiff could recover in a personal injury claim.

    Put another way, workers’ comp benefits are the only remedy an injured worker has and the only financial compensation they can receive, even if the employer was negligent in causing the injury. This is often known as the “Sole Remedy” rule.

    Although workers’ comp was designed as a compromise, there are plenty of critics. It has been argued that the system allows employers to ignore unsafe working conditions since they know their workers’ comp insurance will pay out any damages to injured employees. Thus, there certainly is very little incentive to spend money on fixing any unsafe conditions.

    It has also been argued that the benefits paid out by workers’ comp insurance are far too little to truly compensate injured employees. Under this argument, either workers’ comp benefits should mirror personal injury benefits or allow an employee to choose whether to accept workers’ comp benefits or file a personal injury lawsuit. The difference in recoverable damages is substantial. Workers’ comp will pay:

    • Medical benefits, such as hospital costs, prescriptions, and orthopedic appliances
    • Two-thirds of the worker’s average weekly wage in wage loss benefits
    • If the employee earns lower wages after the injury, partial disability benefits, 
    • Vocational rehab costs
    • Death benefits if there is a work-related death

    Comparatively, personal Injury damages include:

    • Medical bills, both past and future
    • All lost wages
    • All lost future earning capacity
    • Permanent impairment benefits
    • Loss of consortium
    • Pain and suffering
    • Loss of quality of life
    • Maybe most importantly, punitive damages

    The only downside is that you have to prove fault. Nonetheless, it seems clear that workers’ comp benefits employers over employees. The best solution for employees would be a choice of either. If fault is clear, they could choose to pursue a personal injury lawsuit, but if fault is questionable, they could select workers’ comp benefits. All employers would have to do is purchase insurance for personal injury claims.

    Who Qualifies as an “Employee” in Pennsylvania?

    In Pennsylvania, it’s important to know if you’re considered an “employee” because if you’re not one, you can bring a personal injury claim. Under the law, an employee is “synonymous with servant, and includes–All natural persons who perform services for another for a valuable consideration, exclusive of … persons whose employment is casual in character and not in the regular course of the business of the employer, and exclusive of persons to whom articles or materials are given out to be made up, cleaned, washed, altered, ornamented, finished or repaired, or adapted for sale in the worker’s own home, or on other premises, not under the control or management of the employer.”

    Put more simply, an employee in Pennsylvania is anyone who performs services for another in exchange for something of value. However, there are exceptions, such as domestic and casual workers, and some people may elect not to be covered, such as certain types of executive officers. 

    When LLCs have no employees, in other words, when its only workers are members, which is common, it has no workers’ compensation liability. However, if a member becomes an employee, or if the LLC adds an employee, either part-time or full-time, it would be required to insure them.

    Furthermore, you may be able to bring a personal injury claim against your employer under certain circumstances, including:

    • If employers do not carry adequate workers’ comp insurance, you may be able to file a personal injury claim against your employer to recover damages for your work-related injury or illness, even based on mere negligence.
    • If an employer’s intentional act injures you, you may be able to bring a claim against your employer for harm caused by the deliberate act if it was specifically intended to harm you. 
    • Under certain circumstances, you may be able to sue a third-party independent contractor who is responsible for your injury (i.e., if you are injured by an independent truck driver). 

    Let a Lancaster Workers’ Comp Lawyer Help You with Your Workers’ Comp or Personal Injury Claim

    Employers have an obligation to keep their workplaces safe and free of dangerous hazards. Unfortunately, many employers do not prioritize safety, especially knowing that workers’ comp insurance will pay for any injuries to employees on the job. Employees have the right to collect workers’ comp benefits, or, in some circumstances, personal injury damages.

    If you have been injured at work, let a Lancaster workers’ comp lawyer at Vanasse Law LLC help you with any claims you may have. Contact us for a same-day response and a free consultation.