You Cannot Sue Your Employer If You Are Hurt At Work
Injured workers commonly have two major questions when they are hurt at work:
- Why can’t I sue my employer?
- What about compensation for pain and suffering?
The answer to both questions is the Workers Compensation Act.
Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act
No Work, No Money, No Medical: Life Before Workers’ Compensation
Prior to workers’ compensation, if someone was injured at work, they had to go through a lawsuit. Suits often took years, leaving the injured worker with no income. In order to win a case, the employee had to prove the employer was negligent. Sometimes the employee was negligent, leaving no basis for compensation. Without the workmans’ compensation system, people found themselves unable to work, sometimes permanently, and unable to support themselves or receive medical treatment. In the end, the government created the workers’ compensation system. In exchange for protecting the employer from suit, the employee is entitled to benefits. These benefits include wages and medical care.
Why No Compensation for Pain and Suffering?
Unfortunately, no matter how badly a worker might be injured, they cannot obtain compensation for pain and suffering. This is true even if the employer was negligent. The reason for this goes back to the mutual protection provided by the system. However, there are some occasions, when the injury is caused by a third party, that you can sue. For example, if you are driving during the scope of business, and someone else causes a car crash, in addition to receiving workers’ compensation, you can file a suit against the person who injured you. In such cases, it is best to retain a firm which handles both personal injury and workers’ compensation claims.
What if the Employer Won’t Cooperate?
Employes or their insurance companies will not to cooperate. In such cases they claim the injury did not occur at work or that the victim is malingering. In such cases, it is necessary to retain an attorney who can:
- Try to convince the insurance company that it should provide benefits.
- Bring the case before a workers’ compensation judge if the company continues to refuse to cooperate.
In both cases, the attorney will gather medical records and bring in expert witnesses to prove that the claimant is entitled to benefits.
What If It is Impossible to Return to Work
When someone is injured at work and the injury is permanent there are two, basic possibilities:
- Stay on workers’ compensation and keep receiving payments.
- Negotiate a lump sum payment.
Sometimes it is not possible for the parties to agree on an amount for a lump sum payment. Other times, the employer/insurance company refuses to accept that the employee cannot return to work. In such cases, your attorney can take your case to a special hearing to fight for a fair settlement or continuation of benefits.
What if the Employer Stops Benefits?
Sometimes, the employer and/or the insurance company will seek to stop benefits. They do this legally through a supersedeas motion. Other times they will improperly stop the checks. A popular option is to seek an independent medical exam or IME. These exams are by no means truly independent. The doctor who performs the exam will look for an excuse to recommend cancellation of your benefits. Any time your employer orders an IME, stops your benefits or seeks to stop to benefits, you should immediately contact a lawyer for help.
Hurt at Work? Contact Lowenthal & Abrams
Jim Mogul, the head of Lowenthal & Abrams’ workers’ compensation team, is a certified expert* in Pennsylvania workers’ compensation law. He leads a team who knows how to fight for your benefits when the insurance company or your employer refuses to cooperate. Contact him today at 888-979-7298.