Workers' Compensation Law For Employers

The laws that govern workers' compensation guarantee that an employee who is injured or contracts an industrial disease while on the job will receive money benefits to cover lost wages and medical bills. In exchange, the employee may not sue the employer for any negligence. Sound public policy reasons support the workers' compensation system. First, it offers an efficient way to determine compensation. Second, the no-fault model affords the employer secure knowledge that there will be no expensive and time-consuming litigation. Third, the amount of litigation that work injuries and illnesses could otherwise conceivably produce would overwhelm the court system.

Nevertheless, the system is not perfect. Workers' compensation laws vary from state to state, and Pennsylvania's regulations are among the most complex. Likewise, employers must be on guard against fraudulent claims and other forms of malfeasance.

If you're a business or employer faced with a workers' compensation issue, you should seek legal counsel. To this end, The Law Firm of Peters & Wasilefski is an excellent resource. Based in Harrisburg, and serving throughout south central Pennsylvania, you can contact us for more information - although we provide a brief overview of workers' comp-related issues below.

Employer Responsibility

While federal law mandates workers' compensation generally, it is state law determines which employers are required to provide workers' compensation coverage to their employees. A few states do not require very small employers - those with only a handful of employees - to furnish coverage. Most employers are required to purchase workers' compensation insurance, but some states allow larger employers to self-insure, meaning that they have sufficient resources to cover workers' compensation claims independently and without insurance. Still other states require employers to pay into state-wide workers' compensation funds from which claims are paid. If the employer is not exempt and does not hold workers' compensation insurance or comply with similar provisions, the employer may be open to civil penalties, fines or lawsuits.

Employers are generally protected against civil liability in court, except in a few situations that vary from state to state. Depending upon the circumstances, the employee may both receive workers' compensation funds, and have the ability to sue his or her employer for damages for the following:

  • Injury caused by reckless, malicious or intentional act
  • Injury caused by violation of state or federal law
  • Discrimination, sexual harassment, violation of privacy or defamation

Covered Conditions

The majority of workplace injuries and occupational diseases are covered by workers' compensation. Guidelines are relatively straightforward, and typically require that the injury occur on the job and in the course of employment. The injury does not actually have to happen at the job site or home office, as long as the travel or off-site activity is part of the employment.

Some exceptional circumstances may prevent the injured or sick employee from receiving benefits, such as the following:

  • Injuries from criminal activity
  • Injuries from violation of posted or known company policy
  • Injuries related to intoxication by alcohol or drugs
  • Off-work injuries
  • Injuries incurred during the work commute
  • Some types of mental or emotional harm
  • Self-inflicted injuries, usually including suicide

The laws governing these exceptions to coverage tend to be complex, vary widely among the states and depend upon the individual circumstances.

If a worker files for compensation, it is not advisable to challenge the claims immediately; rather, it is important to consult with a lawyer regarding the best course of action. Employers that act too swiftly or rashly are often penalized for retaliation.

Conclusion

Workers' compensation involves a trade-off between employer and employee. The employer is not held liable for a workplace accident in exchange for a guaranteed benefit for the employee. Aside from a few exceptions, an employee cannot sue an employer for an injury that occurred on the job.

For legal advice concerning workers' compensation issues in your workplace, consult a skilled workers' compensation attorney at The Law Firm of Peters & Wasilefski. You can call us at 717-260-3483 or 866-830-1116, or reach us online.