Q: I was seriously hurt by a chemical burn at work. How can I determine whether my employer has to cover my medical care under Pennsylvania’s workers’ compensation law, or if I need to file a third-party claim?
Your employer is always obliged to cover your health care expenses that result from a workplace injury or occupational illness. You do not have to file a lawsuit or even prove that you were not at fault. In fact, under the grand bargain of workers’ compensation, you are not allowed to sue your employer for damages.
Who actually pays the bills depends on some decisions made by your employer:
- Most Pennsylvania employers are required to purchase workers’ compensation insurance to pay your benefits. If you have properly reported your injury to your employer, the insurance company should be contacting you soon to arrange for paying your bills.
- A few of Pennsylvania’s largest businesses have obtained permission to “self-insure”. Instead of buying a workers’ compensation insurance policy, one of those companies will have set aside money to pay off claims. If you work for one of these employers, you should hear from the claims management department in the near future.
If nobody gets hold of you about your benefits within a day or two, you may want to call the contact number that your boss should have provided you. Or it might be in your better interest to call us at 888.476.0807 and ask for a FREE copy of our guide, Who Pays The Bills When You Are Injured At Work?
Seeking Compensation Outside of the Workers’ Compensation System
Pennsylvania workers’ compensation will pay the medical expenses related to your workplace burn injury and will give you a portion (about two-thirds) of your usual income if your injuries force you to miss work.
However, if your injuries were ultimately due to the recklessness or negligence of someone who does not work for your employer, you are not confined by the rules of workers’ compensation. A lawsuit against a negligent third party can permit you to recover money for pain and suffering, psychological damage, scars and deformities, all lost current and future income, and even punitive damages. These areas of compensation are not normally available under workers’ compensation in Pennsylvania.
You may be able to file a civil lawsuit against this person or his business and collect workers’ compensation benefits at the same time.
The key issue is figuring out who was responsible for the incident that caused your burn injury. An investigation by an experienced workplace injury attorney is the only way to find out who was really at fault. At Schmidt Kramer, our workers’ compensation lawyers in Harrisburg regularly conduct these investigations on behalf of clients, and we charge nothing for this service unless we can get a financial recovery.
Of course, if you are satisfied by the limited compensation your employer offers you for your burn injury, you do not have to take any action. But if you want to find out whether you are eligible for additional compensation, call our office at 717.888.8888 or 888.476.0807 toll-free to schedule a free, confidential case review. We handle cases in Harrisburg, Carlisle, York, Lancaster, Lebanon, and all nearby communities.