If you cannot work in Pennsylvania because of injuries or medical problems, there are two federal government programs that may help you.


The moment you become injured at work, everything changes. You suddenly can't work. The paychecks stop.


Slips, trips and falls are a part of everyday living. But when your slip-and-fall was someone else's fault, it is an entirely different matter, especially if you are injured.


A Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision from the end of 2013 sets some important rules that apply to something an employer can do to try to reduce the benefits of an injured worker.

Sidestepping the workers’ compensation system in Pennsylvania

Injured workers are typically limited to recovery under workers’ compensation laws. But there are exceptions to this general rule. In some cases, employees can seek legal recourse in civil court.

The workers' compensation system is a system that benefits both workers and employers. Essentially, an employee is barred from going outside the workers' comp system and suing for injuries or illnesses sustained (regardless of fault) while working in the scope of employment. In exchange, the employee receives necessary workers' compensation benefits if he or she is injured or suffers a work-related illness.

The workers' compensation system, however, is a give-and-take relationship between both parties. The employee receives expedited benefits, but, for instance, forfeits the right to pursue damages for pain and suffering normally allowed in civil court. Alternately, the employer agrees to procure the necessary insurance and make sure workers receive immediate benefits in the event of an on-the-job injury or illness.

However, it's important for employees to understand that there are exceptions and limitations to this general rule. In some cases, an employee is allowed to sidestep the workers' compensation system and seek legal recourse in a civil court of law.

When such instances are allowed, however, will always depend on the jurisdiction.

Going outside the workers' comp system in Pennsylvania

In the state of Pennsylvania, an employee may be able to pursue a civil cause of action against his or her employer if the employer failed to procure workers' compensation insurance as mandated under the law.

Alternately, an employee may be able to sue a third party in civil court for injuries or illnesses sustained while working on the job. For instance, a worker who suffers an injury attributed to a piece of defective equipment or machinery may have a cause of action against the manufacturer who designed the product.

Or, an employee who suffers an illness from exposure to a toxic substance while working on the job may have a cause of action against the manufacturer of the substance. Asbestos exposure is one common example. Employees who have contracted deadly mesothelioma have sued various manufacturers of asbestos throughout the years in court.

Sidestepping the workers' compensation system and pursuing a civil lawsuit against a third party allows a worker to pursue pain and suffering and other benefits generally prohibited under the workers' compensation laws.

The guidance of a workers' compensation lawyer

However, every situation is unique and every jurisdiction is different. The first step for those who have been injured or who have suffered an illness is to consult with a worker's compensation attorney. A lawyer knowledgeable in this area of law can offer advice on individual circumstances, potential avenues available, as well as possible third party personal injury lawsuits.

Keywords: pain and suffering, civil court, workplace injury

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