What is Worker's Compensation? | Pennsylvania Lawyer

Workers’ Comp

Workers’ Compensation in PA

According to Wikipedia, workers’ compensation is defined as:

“Workers’ compensation is a form of insurance that provides wage replacement and medical benefits for employees who are injured in the course of employment, in exchange for mandatory relinquishment of the employee’s right to sue his or her employer for the tort of negligence. The tradeoff between assured, limited coverage and lack of recourse outside the worker compensation system is known as “the compensation bargain.”

While plans differ between jurisdictions, provisions can be made for weekly payments in place of wages (functioning in this case as a form of disability insurance), compensation for economic loss (past and future), reimbursement or payment of medical and like expenses (functioning in this case as a form of health insurance), and benefits payable to the dependents of workers killed during employment (functioning in this case as a form of life insurance). General damages for pain and suffering, and punitive damages for employer negligence, are generally not available in worker compensation plans, and negligence is generally not an issue in the case. These laws were first enacted in Europe and Oceania, with the United States following shortly thereafter.

Per the Department of Labor and Industry of Pennsylvania under the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act, there are two categories of injuries.

  • The first of these categories is a “work related injury” which typically is a one-time incident, such as a slip and fall or a motor vehicle accident. Also in this category are what are referred to as repetitive type injuries, such as carpal tunnel or shoulder overuse injuries. Aggravation of pre-existing conditions such as arthritis in a knee or back such that the work injury permanently worsens the condition, as well as a recurrence of an old work injury are also included in the “work related injury” category.
  • The other category of injury under the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act is “occupational disease”. There are certain diseases that are specifically related to certain occupations and because of this, they are specifically recognized as occupational diseases. Examples of these include but are not limited to chemical poisoning for jobs that involve direct exposure or contact; heart and lung diseases for firemen with extended service; hepatitis for healthcare workers, such as nurses or blood processors.

Whether a disease is occupationally related and compensable for the injured worker depends on if the onset of the disease is substantially greater in that particular occupation or industry; if the injured worker is exposed to the disease because of his or her employment; and if the disease is causally related to the injured worker’s work.

The Pennsylvania Legislation enacted the PA Workers’ Compensation Act in 1915. For more on the history of the Workers’ Compensation Act, you can visit WC-Act-Landing-Page.