Montgomery & Bucks County Workers' Compensation Law Blog

Monday, November 30, 2015

PA Commonwealth Court Considers 'Extra-Territorial' Case

How do workers’ compensation laws apply when the accident occurs in Pennsylvania but the company is not principally located in the Commonwealth?

Known as the Keystone State, Pennsylvania’s roadways support millions of tractor trailers en route to final destinations across the United States – which also explains the unrelenting potholes and roadway damage for which the state is famous!

On a more serious note, however, the regular influx of trucks throughout the state creates the perfect scenario for a jurisdictionally challenged, interstate workers’ compensation issue – which is precisely the matter raised in the recent case known as William Watt v. WCAB (Boyd Brothers Transportation).

In that case, the claimant – who was injured in New Jersey – was driving for a company principally located in Alabama. However, he was a resident of Pennsylvania at the time of the injury, and received his CDL license from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.
After receiving a denial of benefits based on lack of jurisdiction, the claimant appealed to the Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board – and, ultimately, to the Commonwealth Court.

After receiving much testimony over the driver’s most commonly traversed states, the claimant’s understandings at the time of hiring (which actually occurred in Ohio), and various other factors, the Commonwealth Court also concluded that Pennsylvania was the wrong jurisdiction for his workers’ compensation claim. More specifically, the case hinged on a concept known as “extra-territorial jurisdiction,” which essentially allows for compensation for an out-of-state injury provided certain factors are met. Relying on a similar case holding, the court held that jurisdiction would only be proper if “a claimant [can] show that he worked from Pennsylvania as a rule, not as the exception.”

Here, despite logging the most number of miles driving through Pennsylvania, the court concluded that the evidence was insufficient to support the notion that the claimant’s principal place of business was within the Commonwealth, and the matter was conclusively dismissed.

If you are experiencing difficulty with a workers’ compensation claim, you should contact a competent personal injury attorney to help you navigate the bureaucratic complexities associated with this area of law

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