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    Work-Related Accidents: Your Rights
    What happens if you are injured on the job? Who is responsible for your medical bills, your lost wages, your pain and suffering, loss of the ability to return to work, or, in the most severe case, loss of life? That is a very complex question. We have tried to make the answer simple.

    Work-related accidents due to your employer's fault
    In the majority of states, injured workers may seek compensation from their employer pursuant to that state's Workers' Compensation Act. The other option would be a civil suit, but most states make employers immune from such suits, forcing the worker to go through the Workers' Compensation system. However, some jurisdictions allow the worker to chose whether to seek relief under the Workers' Compensation Act or file a civil suit if certain circumstances are present (for example, if the employer violated the Workers' Compensation Act in some manner).

    In other jurisdictions there is no Workers' Compensation Act and the only relief given is through a civil suit. For federal employees, no matter what state they are in, federal law, not state law, governs their work injuries.

    An injured worker, in most jurisdictions, is ONLY entitled to lost wages and payment of medical treatment. Pain and suffering is not compensable if you are pursuing your employer in most cases.

    A majority of jurisdictions have a salary scale which determines how much an injured worker will be awarded for his lost wages. These calculations are very complex. Most employers or insurance companies do their own calculations and these figures should always be checked and questioned by the injured worker.

    Recently, there has been Workers' Compensation reform in some jurisdictions. An injured worker must be careful to take recent reforms into consideration.

    Most states require the employer to prominently display, at the work place, or distribute materials at the time of hiring, as to the governing law in that jurisdiction concerning work injuries.

    Please note that, in some jurisdictions, it is required that the injured worker first seek treatment with the employer's treatment provider. In these instances, a list of acceptable doctors or facilities should also be displayed prominently at the work place. Be careful: should the employee choose not to seek treatment with the employer's provider, the employee may be responsible for the medical costs. Private medical insurance companies have been known to refuse coverage if the employee does not go to the employer's provider. Private medical insurance companies tend not to be responsible for covering treatment of a work injury. The injured worker may become ultimately responsible for his medical costs if the rules are not followed properly.

    The majority of states require prompt notice of the employee's injury be given to the employer. This may be accomplished by giving notice to your supervisor or manager. In some states, this notice may have to be in writing, but oral notice is acceptable in most jurisdictions. Prompt notice varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. In Pennsylvania, an employee has three years to report a work injury. Some jurisdictions give significantly less time to report a work injury. Once the time period of notice has lapsed, an injured worker may be permanently barred from receiving compensation for his work injury.

    Most importantly, an injured worker must be wary of the type of conduct which can result in the cancellation of his workers' compensation. For example, an injured worker in Pennsylvania must never act in a way that is interpreted as his refusal to do a job within his medical restrictions as a result of the work injury. Such action will expose him to the possibility of having his worker's compensation payments stopped, even if he cannot return to his pre-injury position due to his work injury.

    Is the work-related injury due to someone else's fault?
    The limitations most employees find in trying to hold their employer accountable for work-related injuries DO NOT APPLY if the employee can pursue someone other than his or her employer for compensation. Sometimes work-related injuries aren't due to the conduct of the employer, but are instead due, in whole or in part, to a defective product or machinery, or due to the negligence of a contractor who was working on the site, or due to the negligence of some other entity. Usually, this means that there is a viable tort claim that can be brought without regard to the obstacles presented by the Worker's Compensation system.

    This informational piece was prepared by Monheit, Silverman & Fodera. If you would like more information on this topic, call us at (800) 220-LAW1, or use the "Do I Have A Case?" button on this web site.


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