Montgomery & Bucks County Workers' Compensation Law Blog

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Off-duty Worker Prevails in Obtaining Workers’ Compensation Following Unsuccessful Rescue Attempt of Fellow Laborer

Can I collect workers’ compensation benefits if I am injured at work, but not technically “on the clock?” 

As the name suggests, workers’ compensation benefits are reserved for those who are injured while engaged in an employment-related activity. The concept draws a clear line between work-related injuries versus those that occur during personal pursuits – the latter of which are not covered. But how does the law treat that thin grey area in which a worker – who is not technically “on the clock” – is injured on the jobsite? As the following story details, these cases are decided based on a thorough analysis over whether the victim was acting within the “scope of employment” at the time of the injury, and not whether he was actually being compensated at the precise moment of the accident. 

Off-the-clock worker prevails following rescue attempt

In July, 2010, an Allegheny County sewage plant worker rushed to the aid of a fellow employee after the employee fatally fell into a concrete pit on the jobsite. Not realizing the futility of his efforts, the plant worker descended into the pit – along with several other workers – to try and rescue the employee, to no avail. On the way out of the pit, the worker was overcome by methane gas, and fell from the ladder injuring his left leg, knee, foot, ribs, back, head and lungs.

In the days following this fateful fall, the injured worker filed for workers’ compensation benefits, which were initially granted by the Workers’ Compensation Board. The employer and its insurance provider immediately appealed the decision to the Commonwealth Court, asserting that a rescue attempt is not an employment duty, and should therefore not be compensated under the terms of the workers’ compensation policy. More specifically, the employer alleged that the victim was not even assigned to work anywhere near the pit, and had stepped outside the scope of his employment just by being in the area. More succinctly, the employer asserted that “his compulsion to act as a Good Samaritan was not employment-related….”

Fortunately, the Court held in favor of the victim and ultimately decided that “[a]ttempts to render aid to another do not, in and of themselves, constitute an abandonment of employment.” In a victory for Pennsylvania’s workers, this holding stands for the notion that the “scope of employment” standard is heavily fact-driven and must be applied subjectively to each situation, regardless of whether the worker was on-the-clock at the time of the injury. 

If you are having difficulty with a workers’ compensation issue, please do not hesitate to contact the Montgomery and Bucks County, Pennsylvania attorneys at Louis P. Lombardi, III & Associates by calling (610)239-7600 to discuss your case today. 

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