Philadelphia Workplace Injuries Lawyer
Recently, a sanitation worker in west Philly was injured when a box he had loaded into the back of a trash truck exploded. The worker had collected the box from the side of the road while picking up household trash. A new homeowner had found the box inside the residence upon moving in. The box was discovered to have contained an oxygen tank, paint thinner, and other combustible items. The sanitation worker was transported to the hospital for treatment.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are more than 2 million workplace injuries and illnesses in the private industry each year, more than 900,000 of which result in missed work. A median of eight days of missed work was associated with these injuries. In Pennsylvania, when a workplace injury occurs, the injuries are generally covered by the state’s workers’ compensation program. Read on for more information about workplace injuries, workers’ compensation, and how an experienced Philadelphia workplace injuries lawyer can help.
Common Causes of Workplace Injuries
According to the National Safety Council, a worker gets injured on the job in the U.S. every seven seconds. Around 104 million production days are lost due to work-related injuries. The most common workplace injuries include:
- Overexertion due to repetitive motion, or bending and lifting heavy objects. Overexertion injuries account for 33.54 percent of all workplace injuries.
- Contact with objects and equipment. This category, which makes up about 26 percent of workplace injuries, includes the worker being struck by an object or equipment, workers caught in or compressed by objects or equipment, or workers being struck, caught, or crushed in a collapsing structure, equipment, or material.
- Slips, trips, and falls. This category, accounting for 25.8 percent of workplace injuries, includes falling to a lower level as well as injuries resulting from falling on the same level. According to the National Floor Safety Institute, falls account for around 5 percent of job-related fatalities for women, and about 11 percent of job fatalities for men. While slip and falls are not the primary sources of occupational fatalities, they are the primary cause of lost days from work, as well as the leading cause of workers’ compensation claims.
- Roadway accidents involving a motor vehicle, which are of particular danger to workers in the transportation and shipping industry, as well as construction workers either in roadway work zones or in transport to and from the job site.
In specific industries, the risk of a particular injury increases simply by the work that the employee does. For example, in the construction industry, a fall to a lower level represents the most frequent cause of injury. In the professional services sector, the most common cause of workplace injuries are falls on the same level. Manufacturing and health care sectors both present a higher risk of overexertion or repetitive motion injuries. Workers in the retail industry are more likely to have injuries caused by overexertion or falls on the same level.
Injuries Occurring in the Workplace
Some of the most common injuries suffered by workers in the United States include:
- Muscle strains and sprains from heavy lifting, or slipping/ tripping and falling.
- Broken bones from falling, being struck by an object, or transportation accidents.
- Concussions from falling, being struck by an object, or transportation accidents.
- Repetitive strain injuries, caused by forceful, repetitive activity or poor posture.
- Cuts and lacerations from power equipment, transportation accidents, lack of training, and failure to use personal protective devices when doing activities that produce this type of injury.
- Inhaling toxic fumes, which is common in the manufacturing industry and other sectors, and is generally caused by a failure to use proper personal protection such as goggles and face masks when working with chemicals.
- Damage to hearing caused by being exposed to loud noises in the workplace. This is also a common injury suffered by those in the manufacturing industry.
- Burns caused by contact with hot surfaces or electrical lines. Contact with electrical lines is a relatively common source of workplace injury for construction workers, as well as those in the business of installing, maintaining, and repairing utility lines.
Workplace accidents can happen in any type of working environment. However, some industries present a higher risk of workplace injuries than others. Among the top five industries where workers are likely to suffer an injury are:
- Service industries, including firefighters and police officers. In West Philadelphia recently, a police officer suffered an injury while struggling with a suspect. The injuries were minor, but the officer required assistance from others to take the suspect into custody.
- The transportation and shipping industries, including long-haul trucking and delivery drivers. A delivery driver making a delivery in Northeast Philadelphia was injured recently as an armed robber approached him and stole items from his truck. The robber then shot the driver in the abdomen. The driver, who was also armed, returned fire, shooting and killing the robber.
- Manufacturing and production industries. A 75-year-old man was killed in an industrial accident in Reading after he got stuck in a machine while working at the Rose Corporation. The company specializes in high-quality contract manufacturing, industrial fabrication, and installation of engineered equipment.
- Installation, maintenance, and repair industries. A Philadelphia maintenance worker sustained injuries when a boiler at a school exploded. The man later died of his injuries, which included third-degree burns. The incident prompted protests from a union representing maintenance workers, who demanded that the roughly 600 boilers installed in schools within the district be inspected for dangerous defects.
- The construction industry. A 45-year-old worker in South Philadelphia suffered an injury recently after the crane he was working on came into contact with electrical lines. The worker was transported to the hospital, where he was in stable condition and receiving treatment for burns.
Workers’ Comp in Pennsylvania
In lieu of personal injury lawsuits against employers by injured or ill employees, most states have created a workers’ compensation program to pay for the costs of medical treatment and to provide other benefits for workers injured on the job. Most employers must carry workers’ compensation coverage for their employees in Pennsylvania, including non-profit businesses and even businesses that only have one employee. Failing to carry required workers’ compensation insurance may result in a lawsuit from the employee and criminal prosecution by the commonwealth, the Department of Labor & Industry notes.
The law does exempt some employers and entities from workers’ comp laws, however, including:
- People covered under other types of workers’ compensation programs, such as railroad workers, federal employees, and longshoremen.
- Domestic servants, for whom coverage is optional.
- Agricultural workers who work less than 30 days who are paid less than $1,200 in the calendar year from one employer.
- Employers who have been granted an exception due to religious beliefs or executive status within certain corporations.
Workers’ compensation provides coverage beginning on the first day of the employee’s employment, regardless of the employee’s prior medical history. Employers may obtain this coverage through a third-party insurance provider licensed to provide insurance in Pennsylvania, or through the state’s Workers’ Insurance Fund, a state-run insurance carrier.
For those suffering on-the-job injuries, workers’ compensation can provide benefits that include:
- Lost wages: Lost wage benefits are available for employees who are totally disabled and unable to work due to their injuries, or those who are partially disabled and now receiving wages less than what they were paid before the injury occurred. Wage loss benefits are equal to approximately two-thirds of the worker’s weekly wage, up to a weekly maximum set by regulation. Wage loss benefits are available after at least seven calendar days (including weekends) of disability. If the worker is required to miss at least 14 calendar days of work, the first seven days of his or her disability are paid retroactively.
- Medical care: Workers’ compensation will pay for reasonable surgical or medical treatment provided by a physician or other health care provider. Some of the items covered by this benefit include medicine, supplies, hospital treatment and services, orthopedic appliances, and prostheses. This treatment does not require a deductible to be paid by the employee. An exception to this provision may exist if the treatment is obtained outside of the state.
- Death benefits: Workers’ comp makes compensation available to family members if their loved one dies due to a work-related injury or illness.
- Specific loss benefits: This is payment made to individuals who have lost a specific body part such as a thumb, finger, hand, arm, leg, foot, or toe; or if they have lost their vision or hearing due to a workplace accident.
In Pennsylvania, workers can choose their own medical provider from which to seek treatment for a workplace injury, unless the worker’s employer has accepted the workers’ comp claim and has posted in the workplace a list of at least six approved health care providers from whom a worker can receive treatment. If that is the case, then the employee must seek initial treatment from one of those providers and must continue treatment with that provider or another provider on the list for 90 days. Employees whose providers suggest invasive surgery to treat the injury may seek a second opinion to be paid for by the employer/insurer.
Temporary compensation may be paid by the employer or insurer for up to 90 days, even if the employer has denied the claim. If the temporary compensation expires after 90 days and the employer and insurer do not accept the claim, then the worker may petition the Pennsylvania Office of Adjudication for a hearing to review the denial.
Once a worker has begun receiving benefits, if an employer has evidence to prove that there is employment available for the employee—within a local area and within the employee’s existing medical restrictions—an offer of employment can be made, and the worker may choose to accept or decline that offer. If the offer is declined, the employer may petition a workers’ compensation judge to either reduce or stop wage-loss benefits.
Employers and insurers may deny workers’ compensation claims because:
- The employer believes that the injury did not occur during the normal scope of employment, was caused intentionally, or resulted from horseplay or a failure to follow safety protocols.
- No one witnessed the injury and the employer has reason to believe it did not take place.
- The injured worker failed to notify his or her employer of the injury within 120 days as required by law.
- An investigation revealed that the injury did not happen as the employee reported it.
- The injury was a pre-existing condition that didn’t occur at the workplace.
- The worker was not covered by the employer’s workers’ comp insurance.
Can a Workplace Injury Ever Result in a Lawsuit?
While the state’s workers’ compensation program bars employees from taking legal action against their employers for a work-related injury or illness in most cases, employees may still have the right to seek compensation through a personal injury lawsuit where:
- The employer did not provide workers’ compensation insurance for its employees as required by law.
- The employer intentionally harms an employee.
- A third-party (someone other than an employer or co-worker) caused the injury, such as where a construction worker gets hurt on a job site because of the reckless actions of a worker who has a different employer, or where an employee gets hurt on the job because of a manufacturing defect in a piece of equipment the employee used.
Part of the job of an experienced Philadelphia workplace injury lawyer is to carefully examine a client’s case to determine if, in addition to any available workers’ compensation insurance benefits, the client may also have a legal right to seek damages through a personal injury lawsuit.
Seek Legal Help for a Philadelphia Workplace Injury
Getting hurt or sick on the job forces a worker to deal with an often-confusing and complicated system of workers’ compensation laws and rules. Do not confront that process alone. To ensure you receive all of the workers’ comp benefits you deserve, and to explore whether you have the right to seek compensation through a personal injury lawsuit, contact the experienced Philadelphia workplace injury attorneys at the Levin Firm today. For a free case evaluation, you can reach us at (215) 825-5183 or through our contact page.
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