Schemery Zicolello

Pennsylvania Supreme Court expands workers' compensation coverage

Employers have a legal obligation to keep their employees safe while they are working. However, employees are still often injured on the job. When employees experience a workplace accident, they can suffer from serious injuries. These injuries may temporarily prevent the work accident victim from being able to work. In some cases, these injuries are so severe that the employee is permanently disabled or is even killed in the accident.

When an employee is injured on the job in Pennsylvania they are entitled to workers' compensation. Workers' compensation helps the employee cover lost wages, medical expenses and pain and suffering caused by the accident.

Recently, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court expanded workers' compensation to include so-called statutory employees. Statutory employees are contractors that do not work on the premises of the employer but are a regular part of a business' operation.

In the case before the court, a Pennsylvania man was working as a truck driver for a shipping company. The company was hired by a packing company to ship tomatoes from Pennsylvania to Maryland. On his way to Maryland, the driver was injured in an accident.

He sued both the company he worked for, the shipping company, and the packing company for workers' compensation benefits. The shipping company had no coverage. The court found that the packing company was responsible for paying workers' compensation.

According to the court, subcontractors who are a regular part of the company's business are covered under workers' compensation laws. Therefore even though the driver was only a subcontractor, he was entitled to workers' compensation from the packing company because he performed a routine part of the company's business.

Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, "Contractor's hirer found to be statutory employer," Ben Present, June 11, 2012

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