WHAT CAN I RECOVER IN A PENNSYLVANIA WORKERS’ COMPENSATION CASE?
What damages are available in a Pennsylvania Work Comp case? Generally speaking, the available relief is 2/3 of your pre- injury average weekly wage (with a max rate of $1025.00 per week in 2018), and payment of reasonable, necessary, and related medical expenses (paid to the provider, unless it’s an out of pocket expense). In some cases, there are additional amounts recoverable- for example in Pennsylvania Specific Loss cases, an injured worker can receive money, notwithstanding disability, for scarring of the head, face, or neck, that is permanent, unsightly, related, and not usually incident to the employment, or for amputations or loss of use for all practical intents and purposes. One can also get benefits for work-related hearing loss in Pennsylvania- the requirements are very specific and quite technical.
Is there a Cost of Living Increase in Pennsylvania Workers’ Comp? No. There is no COLA unlike Social Security. So the injured workers’ checks in Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation can not go up, only down.
Temporary Total Disability can last a lifetime, theoretically. But it rarely does. Once an injured worker is on Temporary Partial Disability, there is a limit of 500 weeks. TTD is when an injured worker is not working at all and getting a full comp check. TPD is when there is an earning power established. (by virtue of an injured worker’s actual post injury earnings, or by way of a Judge’s determination that the injured worker has an earning power that’s less than the pre- injury average weekly wage)
A common question is “Can I get paid for pain and suffering, or because my Employer or Work Comp Carrier is treating me poorly”? The answer is no. Workers’ Compensation is the sole remedy against your Employer for a work-related injury. And Workers’ Compensation doesn’t include pain and suffering or payment for annoyance. You get a weekly or a bi-weekly check, and in many cases, a lump sum settlement, and payment of related medical treatment. This is terribly frustrating to many, but it’s a no fault system- and therefore without the negligence aspect involved, there are no pain and suffering damages like you may see in a car accident or medical malpractice or slip and fall personal injury case. See below.
However, if there is a Third Party Case- you may be able to recover pain and suffering damages in that matter, but not in Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation. Here’s an example: Your boss asks you to drive to Staples to get more paper for the office. On the way, you are rear ended. You sustain a disabling neck injury. You have two cases here. First, you have a Work Comp case against your employer and its work comp carrier. Second, you have a potential case for negligence (Third Party case) against the driver who rear ended you. In that Third Party case, you may be able to recover pain and suffering damages. Note in these situations, there is a concept called “Subrogation” which means Reimbursement. The work comp carrier, will be entitled to subrogation , the right to get reimbursed from the Third Party case, using a formula that accounts for attorneys’ fees, costs, etc. Subrogation can be a tricky concept, so you’ll want to coordinate the Work Comp case with the Third Party case- such that the respective attorneys can maximize the recovery. A Third Party is an entity other than the employer.
The Pennsylvania Workers Compensation Statute is a No Fault Statute. It doesn’t matter if the injury was your fault, the employer’s fault, or no one’s fault. If you’re injured in the course and scope of employment, you’re covered. (some exceptions such as intentional injuries, etc). As such, the employers and carriers aren’t punished with punitive damages. It was the “Grand Bargain” which balances the need to help injured workers until they can re-gain their earning power, but won’t decimate employers and carriers with the risk of catastrophic recoveries for negligence.
For more information about Pennsylvania Work Comp Law, call Cardamone Law.
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