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Worker’s Compensation

Pennsylvania law’s system of worker’s compensation (also known as workman’s comp) is compulsory and governed by the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act.  Employers must provide worker’s compensation insurance for their employees, whether they wish to or not.  This type of insurance can be obtained via a competitive state fund, a private insurance carrier, or employers can choose to self-insure.  Waivers, however, are not allowed–even if the employee is fully willing to sign such a waiver.

The purpose of the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act is to protect employees who are injured while working and have incurred medical costs and/or lost wages because of those injuries.  This Pennsylvania law also serves to protect employers against employee lawsuits since generally an employee receiving workers’ compensation benefits cannot sue his or her employer for injuries suffered on the job.  Certain exceptions do apply, however, such as when the actions of an employer are intentional or reckless.

Under Pennsylvania law, full medical benefits are available to employees entitled to worker’s compensation benefits, without time or monetary limits.  Employers may select the physician who provides initial care, with the employee later being free to choose a provider after a period defined by law.

Pennsylvania law dictates that payments are made for temporary total disability (TTD) based upon the percentage of the worker’s wage and subject to a weekly maximum payment amount.  These payments will continue for the full duration of the disability.  These benefits are subject to Social Security benefit offsets, along with benefit offsets for employer-funded pension plans, and for severance pay.

Payments made for permanent total disability (PTD) are also based upon a percentage of the worker’s wage and subject to a weekly maximum payment amount, with payments continuing for the duration of the disability.  Again, this type of benefit will be subject to offsets for Social Security, employer-funded pension plans, and for severance pay.  The payments for the final type of disability, permanent partial disability (PPD), are made based upon a percentage of the worker’s wage, subject to a weekly maximum payment amount, although Pennsylvania law allows the payments for PPD to continue for up to 500 weeks.

The scheduled awards will be paid in addition to total temporary disability benefits starting upon termination of the TTD benefits and will not be reduced because of receipt of TTD benefits.  Benefits may be available for serious and permanent disfigurement of the head, face, or neck.  With certain constraints and filing deadlines, occupational hearing losses may be compensable.  Physical rehabilitation benefits are covered under medical services, but Pennsylvania law does not provide for vocational rehabilitation in the worker’s compensation law.

In the case of death, benefits are payable to an employee’s surviving spouse, or spouse and children, based upon a percentage of the employee’s wages and subject to a cap.  Burial allowances are usually available.  Under Pennsylvania law, attorney fees for claimants represented by Pennsylvania lawyers will be limited to 20%.  In certain cases, the attorney fee can be tacked on to the amount awarded.

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