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March 6th, 2018

When Can Pennsylvania Injured Workers Sue Employers?

Typically, Pennsylvania law does not allow injured workers to sue their employers for a work injury. This is due to a specific section of the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act, also known as workers’ compensation exclusivity. If a Pennsylvania employer offers workers’ comp benefits to its employees, workers’ comp is the exclusive/only remedy. This is true even if the employer’s negligent conduct led to the accident or injury.

For example, a construction worker in Philadelphia falls from a second story building. The fall happened because the employer failed to follow OSHA regulations pertaining to guardrails and personal fall arrest equipment. The employer was negligent. Despite this, the injured worker’s sole remedy, against the employer, is a workers’ comp claim.

Exceptions – When an Injured Worker in Pennsylvania Can Sue an Employer

There are multiple exceptions to the exclusivity rule. In other words, a Pennsylvania worker can sue an employer for a work accident in the following situations:

  • the employer failed to provide workers’ comp benefits,
  • the employer committed an act of wrongful, intentional conduct that led to the injury, or
  • the incident was of a personal nature (very limited).

It is important to note that these exceptions are rarely applied in work injury cases in Pennsylvania. They depend on the specific facts of a given case and will require careful consideration by an experienced work injury lawyer in Pennsylvania.

Lawsuits Against Non-Employer Parties (Third Parties)

Even though a Pennsylvania employer is off the hook for a work injury, other parties can often be sued successfully. A work injury lawsuit may be filed against contractors hired by an employer. This applies to all different types of work places, from professional offices to factories or construction sites.

Related: Pennsylvania Law & Fall Accidents at Work: Liability of a Non-Employer

Using the example above, let’s change the fact pattern. The employer hired a contractor, a safety management company, to oversee compliance with all OSHA regulations on the work site. The management company failed to install the required guardrails. The injured worker would probably be able to file a lawsuit against the safety management company, but not the employer.

Similarly, an office worker is walking into a break room for a snack. He slips and falls on a puddle of water near the sink which had been leaking. The building is managed and maintained by a contractor, a property management company. The property management company had knowledge of the leaking sink for several weeks prior to the accident, but failed to correct the problem. Like the injured construction worker in the example above, the injured office worker here would have a valid lawsuit against the property management company, but not the employer.

Workers’ Comp Claims Can Be Filed With Work Injury Lawsuits

Injured workers in Pennsylvania are allowed to pursue BOTH types of claims: a workers’ comp claim and a work accident or injury lawsuit against a third party. There’s no law or rule that prevents this, and it’s something most injured workers don’t know.

In a work injury lawsuit, an injured worker (plaintiff) can receive financial compensation for pain and suffering, financial losses and expenses. The claims are entirely different from workers’ comp claims, which only provide medical benefits and a portion of lost wages in the event of a temporary or permanent disability. The key difference between the two types of claims is recovery for pain and suffering, which isn’t allowed in a workers’ comp claim.

In a Pennsylvania work accident lawsuit, the claim for pain and suffering may be substantial and depends on the nature and extent of the physical injuries and how they impacted the plaintiff’s life, work and family activities. The greater the impact, the greater the pain and suffering damages claim. For more info, visit the Pennsylvania Work Injury Law Library.

Pennsylvania Work Accident Law Firm – Over $150 Million Recovered for Injured Workers

Our Pennsylvania work injury lawyers have recovered over $150 million for injured workers via third party lawsuits against non-employer parties. Contact us for a free consultation. Cases accepted statewide. (866) 641-0806

DISCLAIMER: This website does not create any attorney-client relationship or provide legal advice. It is crucial to speak to a qualified lawyer prior to making any decision about your case. Read full disclaimer at the bottom of this page.