I Was Injured at Work: What are My Legal Rights?

Employers in every state are required to provide a reasonably safe and healthy work environment. Sometimes employers fail to accomplish this duty, and employees are injured. 

On the other hand, employees can still be injured at work even when the employer has done everything in their power to ensure a safe workplace environment. Workplace injuries can include broken bones, aggravations of pre-existing conditions, occupational illnesses, or even psychological injuries. 


How can I Protect and Preserve My Rights?

First, in order to protect your legal rights after an injury at work, you should report the injury to your employer. Laws and regulations outline a specific reporting period; typically an employer should be notified within the same day or within a few days of the incident that resulted in an injury. 

Second, you will want to explore filing a workers’ compensation claim. This type of lawsuit allows your employer and their insurance provider to be formally notified of your injury. Once your claim is filed, certain automatic protections are immediately initiated. 


What are My Rights?

Workers’ compensation laws vary widely from state to state. The Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act outlines the rules for employers in the state. Specifically, workers’ compensation coverage is mandatory for most employers under Pennsylvania law. For example, employers who do not have workers’ compensation coverage may be subject to lawsuits by employees and to criminal prosecution by the commonwealth.

The Pennsylvania Legislature enacted the Pennsylvania Workmen’s (Workers’) Compensation Act over 100 years ago. The statute charges the Department of Labor & Industry and the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation with carrying out the administrative and appeal obligations defined in the act and specifies compensation for employees who are injured as a result of employment without regard to fault.

Several legal rights that are common for those seeking workers’ compensation include the right to file a claim for an injury or illness, the right to see a doctor and to pursue medical treatment, and the right to be represented by a lawyer throughout the process.

The laws in every state provide that you can pursue a workers’ compensation claim without fear of retaliation or harassment from your employer. It is illegal for a supervisor to make it difficult for you to do your job if you can prove that the supervisor is only acting in a certain way because you filed a workers’ compensation claim. 

It is important to note that under the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act, some employers are exempt from workers’ compensation coverage. Those exemptions include people covered under other workers’ compensation acts, such as railroad workers, longshoremen and federal employees; domestic servants – in which case workers’ compensation coverage is optional; agricultural workers who work fewer than 30 days or earn less than $1,200 in a calendar year from one employer; and employees who have requested, and been granted, exemption due to religious beliefs or their executive status in certain corporations.


Do My Rights Extend to Parties Other Than My Employer?

If your injury was the direct result of another person’s wrongful actions, then you may have the right to sue a third party for negligence. These “third party claims” are not typically filed in with a workers’ compensation lawsuit, but rather are filed separately in the form of a civil lawsuit.

Note that if you are injured at work due to a third party’s negligence, you could be eligible to file both a workers’ compensation claim and a civil lawsuit claiming negligence. 

Indeed, any benefits you receive in a workers’ compensation claim are typically intended to reimburse you for your medical expenses and lost wages, while a civil lawsuit will also allow you to seek compensation for pain and suffering.

In addition to excluding a formal request for pain and suffering, workers’ compensation claims do not provide punitive damages to punish an employer for poor safety controls or dangerous conditions. Having another tool, like a civil lawsuit,  is important when understanding your rights and weighing your options after an injury.

Civil lawsuits claiming negligence can arise from many differing situations. For instance, if you were injured by a defective product, you might be able to bring a product liability action against the manufacturer of the product.

When a worker is injured by a piece of machinery that is defective, failed to work properly, or is inherently dangerous, the manufacturer of the machine or equipment can be held responsible for the injury if it knew of the danger and did not properly warn the business or employees of the danger. In such a situation, the manufacturer would have to compensate the worker for things like medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering via judgment in a civil lawsuit. 


Do I Have the Right to Seek Treatment for a Workplace Injury?

Seeking treatment immediately for any injury, even a minor injury, is critically important. Getting timely treatment serves two important purposes — early treatment makes it more likely that you will be able to recover from your injuries faster, and the closer in time to your accident that you receive treatment, the less room it gives your employer or its insurance company to argue that your medical condition is not substantially related to your work.


Where Should I Go for Treatment? 

If you need immediate medical attention, you should go to the nearest emergency room. If it is not an emergency, finding a treatment that will work best for you and your needs will be most helpful to your recovery. While you will need to check with your employer’s medical plan and any medical requirements of your workers’ compensation claim, finding a provider that will work with all aspects of healing and who will focus on you as the patient is important. 

At the Injury Care Center, we are the leader in providing medical services to those injured at work or other accidents. Our staff are specialists in their field with years of training and experience including multiple board-certified physicians and specialists. We also provide specialty-trained physical therapists and chiropractors to help you recover from your work-related injury. Contact us today.