Whether you work on a construction site, in retail, or at the office, you put your safety and well-being on the line every time you clock in. This is because there is no such thing as a 100% risk-free workplace. Depending on your line of work, workplace injuries might be a real and ever-present threat.
In 2020 alone, workers experienced 2.7 million nonfatal injuries and illnesses. This was on top of another 2.8 million nonfatal work injuries that the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics recorded in 2019.
Just knowing you can suffer a workplace injury is not enough, though. You also need to understand your rights if you get injured at work.
Your Right to Workers’ Compensation Benefits
You are entitled to financial benefits if you suffered an injury because of your work duties. Most workplace injuries are covered under the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act.
Of course, workplace injuries happen for all kinds of reasons, and some that may not necessarily be the fault of your employer. Maybe there was an accident, or the strain of years of repetitive motion led to a chronic injury. Either way, you’ll need help recovering.
Workers’ compensation benefits cover your medical expenses related to your workplace injury, including doctor’s visits, hospitalizations, and medication. If your injury is severe enough that you cannot work, you’ll receive compensation for your lost wages until you’re ready to return.
Who Is Covered?
Pennsylvania employers are required to hold workers’ compensation insurance coverage for all of their workers, even those who are part-time or seasonal. This includes:
- Nonprofit Corporations
- Unincorporated Businesses
- Employers with One Employee
This means that the vast majority of workers are covered by traditional workers’ compensation coverage should they suffer a workplace injury.
There are some exceptions, though. Rather than workers’ compensation, different compensation laws typically apply to the following:
- Railroad Workers
- Federal Civilian Workers
- Shipyard and Harbor Workers
- Agricultural Workers
- Volunteer Workers
- Domestic Workers
If you are injured on the job and not sure whether you are entitled to benefits, you might consider speaking with a Williamsport workers’ compensation lawyer about your employment situation.
The Different Types of Benefits
A work injury can complicate your life in a way that little else can. During this period of time when you are recovering physically, the benefits you get through the workers’ compensation system can be life changing.
Workers’ compensation provides various types of benefits depending on the situation:
- Lost Wages – Wage loss benefits are available in two different situations. The first is if you are completely disabled and not able to work, and the second is if you are only partially disabled but earning less than you were before your work injury.
- Medical Benefits – These benefits should cover the cost of necessary medical care related to your work injury. Compensation for things like medications, hospital treatments, medical supplies, and orthopedic prostheses will continue for as long as you need them.
- Specific Loss Benefits – If you permanently lose use of a body part, you are entitled to an award for specific loss. This could be loss of part or all of your hand, leg, foot, hearing, sight, or more.
- Death Benefits – Surviving dependents are entitled to death benefits if a work injury causes death.
Like many people, you might have once thought of workers’ compensation as a bundle which you either received all or none of. However, you are still entitled to things like medical or specific loss benefits even if you never had to take time off work.
Partial Vs. Total Disability
Lost wage benefits will depend on whether your disability is considered partial or total.
You can receive lost wage benefits for up to 500 weeks if you are partially disabled. You are not barred from working while receiving these benefits, either. So long as you adhere to work-related restrictions and still earn less than your previous job at which you were injured, you can continue receiving your benefits.
According to the American Medical Association, a total disability is when your injury causes at least 35% impairment. A total disability either prevents or severely limits your ability to work. Lost wage benefits will last for as long as your total disability does. However, once you have been on the status of total disability for 104 weeks, the workers’ compensation insurer can request that you undergo a medical examination. If the medical examination determines that you no longer meet the 35% threshold, you will be moved to partial disability.
Possible Third-Party Liability
Workers’ compensation benefits are an invaluable tool for addressing many financial losses associated with work injuries. These benefits do not address things like pain and suffering or loss of enjoyment of life, though.
You might be able to seek compensation for these types of damages when a third party also played a role in your injury. Here are a few examples of possible liable third parties in work injuries:
- A distracted driver who caused an accident on a roadside construction site.
- A company that manufactured a dangerous workplace tool.
- A contract worker who ignored safety rules.
Pursuing a personal injury or product liability claim does not interfere with your workers’ compensation benefits. You can receive both at the same time.
Applying for Workers’ Compensation Benefits
Workers’ compensation can be confusing, and there are important deadlines for things like reporting your injury to your employer, filing a petition, and providing relevant evidence. Any misstep along the way could be enough for the workers’ compensation insurer to deny your claim.
This is not necessarily the end of the road, though. As an injured worker, you have the right to file an appeal.
At Stapp Law, LLC we are all too familiar with the challenges associated with the workers’ compensation system. Many insurance companies count on you not knowing your rights if you get injured at work. Don’t miss out on benefits that you need for your recovery. Contact us today to speak with a compassionate workers’ compensation lawyer who is prepared to stand up for your rights.