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    What Constitutes a Work-Related Injury in Pennsylvania?

    Workers’ comp has a long and rich tradition in Pennsylvania, home to some of the country’s hardest workers; the workers who have a history of getting the job done. For these workers, workers’ comp can be a blessing or a curse. In any event, if you’ve suffered a work-related injury, let an experienced Lancaster job injury lawyer at Vanasse Law help you recover the maximum financial compensation you’re entitled to.

    A Brief Look at the History

    According to the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry, Pennsylvania lawmakers enacted the Pennsylvania Workmen’s Compensation Act in 1915 when laborers were thought of as little more than cattle. The statute tapped the Department of Labor and Industry and the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation with the task of carrying out the administration and appeal process defined in the act and called for compensation for employees who were injured as a result of employment regardless of who may or may not be at fault. 

    Lawmakers eventually used amendments to merge the compensation for injuries and occupational diseases into the act. The statute defines the benefits available, the conditions required for these benefits, and the procedures for obtaining them.

    Like all workers’ comp schemes, the Pennsylvania workers’ comp plan is a trade-off: Injured employees recover costs for medical treatment and lost wages without the need to show fault, and employers provide such coverage but are protected from lawsuits brought by employees.

    Employers who do not have workers’ comp coverage are subject to lawsuits by employees and even criminal prosecution, although some employers are exempt from workers’ compensation coverage. When the responsibility for an injury clearly lies with a company, exemption from workers’ comp can be an employee bonanza, because they now have access to a number of damages that aren’t available under workers’ comp.

    What Is a Qualifying Workers’ Comp Injury in Pennsylvania?

    This is one of the most important questions you may have if you’ve been injured “on the job.” It has been described in several different ways, including:

    • Singular, specific accidents that cause injuries, repetitive activities that result in an injury, such as carpal tunnel, and pre-existing conditions that have been aggravated by work activities, such as heart disease,
    • Any injury that occurred while you were performing tasks on behalf of your employer or otherwise in the course of employment,
    • And, perhaps most persuasively, according to another section of the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry: a specific incident at work causing an injury, i.e.: a “fall at work,” a series of repetitive actions resulting in a disability, a pre-existing condition that has been aggravated by work, such as asthma, an earlier work-related disability which recurs causing a later disability, such as a back injury.

    Further, some diseases related to certain occupations are recognized specifically as occupational diseases, such as tuberculosis and hepatitis for nurses, blood processors, and related professionals who are exposed to these diseases, disease of the heart and lungs for firemen who have four or more years of service, pneumoconiosis and silicosis for any occupation that involves direct contact with or exposure to coal dust, specific types of chemical poisoning, such as lead, arsenic, or mercury for occupations that involve direct contact or exposure, or to the preparation of compounds.

    Other diseases not specifically mentioned may qualify if they meet certain criteria for determining whether a disease is occupationally-related. The determination if a disease qualifies depends on the following:

    • Whether the employee is exposed to the disease by reason of his/her employment.
    • Whether the disease is causally related to the employee’s industry or occupation.
    • Whether the occurrence of the disease is substantially greater in that industry or occupation than it is in the general population.

    The Relationship Between the Injury and the Workplace

    An injury does not need to happen at work to be a qualifying work-related injury. As long as the injury happened while you were in the “course and scope” of employment, the injury qualifies. So, for example, if you are out making deliveries for your company and are involved in an accident, the injuries you suffer typically qualify as work-related. On the other hand, injuries sustained while commuting are likely not qualifying. However, if you are injured on your employer’s premises on your way in or out of work, your injury may indeed qualify. Further, commuting may be covered if you are a traveling employee.

    Further, work-related injuries include injuries sustained at company parties and other social events sponsored by an employer, even if they’re not held on company property. So, for example, a company-sponsored holiday party at a restaurant would be considered a work-related activity, and any injuries incurred at the party could be covered by workers’ comp. However, if you and your manager go out for drinks after work, it wouldn’t be considered “work-related” because it’s not a company-sponsored event.

    An Example of How Workers’ Comp Laws Work to Help Injured Employees

    In a 1995 Supreme Court of Pennsylvania case, although the primary issue concerned the applicable statute of limitations, the Claimant alleged that while working as a scarfer, he was exposed to fumes and dust that caused chronic obstructive lung disease and that therefore, he was entitled to workers’ comp benefits due to an occupational disease pursuant to the Pennsylvania Workmen’s Compensation Act. 

    The lower court stated that “to be eligible for compensation under Section 108(n), a claimant must establish that (1) the claimant was exposed to lung disease by reason of his employment, (2) the lung disease is causally related to the occupation and (3) the incidence of lung disease is substantially greater in claimant’s occupation than it is elsewhere. The employer argued that the claimant’s disease was caused or aggravated by the claimant’s smoking, but the court upheld the claimant’s arguments nonetheless because he had suffered an aggravation of a pre-existing disease, and furthermore because that aggravation was partly responsible for his total disability.

    Learn More About Work-Related Injuries From a Lancaster Job Injury Lawyer

    Workers’ comp claims are legislative in nature and are therefore difficult to translate; additionally, there may be legal claims beyond the purview of workers’ comp. Nonetheless, work-related injuries are all we do. A Lancaster Job Injury Lawyer at Vanasse Law LLC can help you with any type of work-related injury claims; simply contact us for a same-day response and a free consultation.