Friday, May 16, 2008

The Exclusivity Provision: Why You Can't Sue Your Employer For a Work Related Injury

The Pennsylvania Workers' Compensation Act provides that the exclusive remedy against your employer for work related injuries is the workers' compensation law. What this means is that when you are injured at work, all you are entitled to receive are the wage and medical benefits outlined in the Act. You cannot file a separate lawsuit for personal injuries against your employer, even if your employer was clearly negligent in causing the injury!

Section 303(a) of the Workers’ Compensation Act provides:

The liability of an employer under this act shall be exclusive and in place of any and all other liability to such employes, his legal representative, husband or wife, . . . or anyone otherwise entitled to damages in any action at law or otherwise on account of any injury or death as defined [in the act]. 77 P.S. § 481(a).

This means that no matter how injured you are, and no matter how disabled you are, you cannot obtain pain and suffering compensation against your employer as you would in a regular personal injury case.

There are a few exceptions to this general exclusivity rule. One exception is if you can prove your employer engaged in some kind of fraud in causing the work injury.

Also, if you are involved in a work related automobile accident, you may be able to obtain compensation for pain and suffering from your employer's automobile insurance company under its Underinsurance/Uninsurance policy. Also, you may be able to obtain pain and suffering compensation against the automobile insurance of a co-worker if that co-worker caused an auto accident in which you were hurt.

Here is a link to a case, Safe Auto v. School District of Philadelphia, which provides a great summary of the case law in relation to work related auto accidents and obtaining pain and suffering compensation from your employer or co-worker.

Of course, remember that you can always file a lawsuit and receive pain and suffering compensation against negligent third parties.

Also, if your employer does NOT have workers' compensation insurance, you can file a lawsuit in the Court of Common Pleas to obtain benefits.

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