Workers’ compensation is insurance provided by your employer to be used after a workplace injury has occurred. The two primary functions of workers’ compensation are to pay for your medical bills and to make up for any wages you have lost due to your injuries. However, many people do not realize that their injuries are actually covered by workers’ compensation. If you have been injured on the job, chances are that you are covered.
How do I know if I am Eligible?
At the most basic level, you may be eligible for workers’ compensation. If you:
- Were injured in the course and scope of your employment
- Aggravated a pre-existing injury or condition due to your work, or
- Developed an occupational illness due to your working conditions
What About Cumulative Injuries?
Cumulative and repetitive stress injuries also count as far as workers’ compensation is concerned. It does not matter whether your injury is the result of a one-time fall or years of repetitive motion. Carpal tunnel is a common example of a repetitive stress injury that can be covered.
Do Injuries Suffered During My Commute or While on Break Count?
Generally, injuries suffered while commuting are not compensable. However, there are exceptions, especially if you travel for work or do not work in a fixed location. Breaks can be more complex and it depends on how long you were on break and where you were located. If you are on the clock you will typically be covered. Also, if you are on company premises within a reasonable time before or after work — even off the clock — and your injury was caused by a condition of the premises, you are typically covered. To be sure, you should check the specifics of your case with a workers’ compensation attorney.
Can I Sue Someone for Causing My Injury?
Workers’ compensation is a trade-off. On one hand, you lose your right to sue your employer for negligence. On the other hand, you are able to obtain workers’ compensation benefits regardless of fault.
However, there are cases in which you could be injured on the job and still sue a negligent third party who is not a co-worker or your employer. For example, if you are a road construction worker and you were hit by a car speeding through a work zone. In this case, you would likely be able to sue the driver for negligence despite your injury being sustained on the job.
What Happens if I Caused My Own Injury?
If your injury is caused by your own accident, you are typically covered by workers’ compensation. Who caused your injury does not matter as long as it occurred in the course and scope of your employment. However, intentional self-harm may not be covered.
When Does Workers’ Compensation Coverage Start?
Workers’ compensation coverage begins as soon as you start working. It does not matter if you are injured after working for 10 years or 10 days — you will be covered.
Are Part-Time Employees Covered?
All employees are covered by workers’ compensation, including:
- Part-time employees – working less than 40 hours/week
- Sole employees – only employee of a business
- Seasonal employees – working only during specific seasons
- Salaried employees – employees who are not hourly
The only people who do not need to be covered are those who are self-employed, true 1099 independent contractors, and corporate officers under certain conditions. If you are a 1099 independent contractor then your case could be very complicated. Not all workers who receive a 1099 tax form are true independent contractors, and so you may be eligible for compensation. An experienced workers’ compensation attorney can help determine your eligibility.
Do Volunteers Count for Workers’ Compensation?
Generally, volunteer first responders (i.e. firefighters) are covered. Aside from them, volunteers are not likely to be covered. However, there are exceptions depending on the organization/volunteer work. Also, keep in mind that only taxable wages are eligible for wage loss benefits under workers’ compensation.
If I was Injured While Working at Home, Am I Covered?
Injuries at home depend on a couple of factors. Were you working at home with permission, or did you simply decide on your own to work from home? Also, were you actually engaged in work at the time of your injury? How were you injured? If you were working at home but got injured while making lunch in your kitchen, that would likely not count as a workplace injury. You will need to discuss this with an experienced workers’ compensation attorney who can determine whether you are eligible.
Does Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Apply if I Work out of State?
If you live in Pennsylvania but work out of state you may be able to apply for workers’ compensation within the state. It depends on where your work was principally localized and your work connections to the state. However, you may also be entitled to benefits from the state within which you were working, and those benefits may be better for you. If your accident occurs within Pennsylvania then you are always eligible for workers’ compensation within Pennsylvania regardless of what state you live in. Check with a workers’ compensation attorney to review the specifics of your case if you have any further questions.
My name is Geoffrey Hillsberg, and I have solely practiced workers’ compensation law since 1995. If you or someone you love has been injured on the job, please do not hesitate to contact my law office. Workers’ compensation cases are extremely time-sensitive and have many deadlines, so it is important to get in touch with an experienced attorney as soon as possible.
The advice offered above is general in nature and may not be applicable to every case. Consultation with an attorney is highly recommended. Reliance on this advice does not represent the formation of an attorney-client relationship in the absence of a fee agreement with Mr. Hillsberg.