To mark the approaching Labor Day, it would be befitting to focus on how the Workers’ Compensation Act in Pennsylvania has evolved over time.
The Enactment of Pennsylvania’s Law on Workers’ Compensation: A Brief History
The Pennsylvania Workers’ Comp Act came into force in 1915. Prior to this Act, injured workers in the state were required to show “negligence” on part of the employer in order to obtain any form of compensation.
Negligence meant that the worker would have established through evidence what was the reasonable “standard of care” for their particular job, and that the employer’s failure to exercise that level of care led to the workplace injury.
In the early 1900s, workers in Pennsylvania were engaged in primary occupations, such as farming, coal mining, and factory jobs.
The kind of safety systems and technology that are available to today’s workers were virtually non-existent at that time. As a result, the workers experienced a high incidence of catastrophic injuries – with little to no legal recourse.
Medicare and a plethora of health care insurance plans did not exist at that time. The injured or disabled workers would often become a burden for the state, and sometimes, even for their own families. At times, workers would be required to do dangerous tasks on the job while they bore much of the risk. Not ideal!
Introduction of the “Wage Loss” Compensation System in PA
To resolve the challenges that workers were faced with in the event of a workplace injury, several states, including the Oil State or State of Independence (Pennsylvania has more than one nickname), began to focus on developing proper compensation systems for injured workers.
While some states choose a compensation system based on how “permanent” the injuries might be, some others opted for “diagnosis-based” compensation models.
Pennsylvania developed its own “wage loss” compensation system. Under this system, an injured worker’s compensation would primarily be determined by the length of time for which they suffered a loss of income because of their workplace injury.
The system did not pre-determine any time duration for which the benefits would be paid, nor was any fixed dollar amount specified.
The compensation would vary according to severity and the wages earned by the injured worker.
The Concept of Compensation has Significantly Evolved Over Time
The concept of workers’ comp in PA has evolved over time, and quite substantially in some ways. Loss of wages, however, continues to be the fundamental basis of the workers’ compensation system in Pennsylvania.
Insurance companies in PA usually adopt a range of legal strategies to minimize, suspend, or stop the amount and length of benefits an injured worker in the state should be entitled to receive. One of the common tactics insurers deploy is “job availability” evidence.
The insurance company may try to establish that the worker still has the “capability” to work in some capacity after the injury. They may back this up with further evidence that new or modified work is actually “available” for the worker to operate within that “capability”.
In these cases, the workers’ compensation judge will review the injured workers’ testimony and medical evidence available to determine the injured worker’s “capability” to perform work.
The workers’ compensation carrier’s medical expert and the injured worker’s medical expert may have differences of opinion on the worker’s current and long-term medical condition and ability to perform a certain type of work.
Choose an Experienced Workers’ Compensation Lawyer in PA
To ensure a successful outcome, injured workers should preferably have a competent Pennsylvania workers’ compensation attorney by their side. That could be the fastest and the most effective way to obtain the right amount of compensation in case of any workplace injury in the great state of Pennsylvania.