Montgomery & Bucks County Workers' Compensation Law Blog

Monday, December 29, 2014

Dog Bite on Break Leads to Workers’ Compensation Benefits

Can you receive workers’ compensation benefits if you were injured while on a break?

In Pennsylvania, an employee may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits if he or she was injured during the course and scope of his or her employment.  While during the course and scope of employment is a phrase that implies that the person must be injured while working, this is not the case.  This phrase has come to encompass a variety of situations as evidenced by a recent Pennsylvania case.

Sean Sovens worked full time for a manufacturing company and part time as a cook at the 1912 Hoover House Restaurant.  In the spring of 2010, while working his one night a week at the restaurant, he went out for a smoke break.  At the same time, his co-worker’s father stopped by, bringing with him the co-worker’s dog.  Sovens pet the dog and the dog attacked him, biting him on the face and causing lacerations.  This incident resulted in Sovens missing 6 days of work.  

Sovens filed a workers’ compensation claim in April of the same year and the restaurant argued that he should be denied benefits because the dog bite did not occur within the course and scope of his employment.  The judge did not agree with the restaurant and instead awarded Sovens’ benefits, assessing his salary to be over $900 a week, which included the wages from his full time job.  

The restaurant appealed the award of benefits and the salary assessment.  While the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board found that the salary was calculated incorrectly, they also found that Sovens was entitled to benefits nonetheless.  The decision was appealed further and subsequently upheld by the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court. This high court found that breaks for leisure that do not interfere with work are considered to be within the course and scope of employment.  They also found that the petting of the dog in Sovens case did not cause him to fall outside of the course or scope.  In addition, the court held that the fact that he was injured while smoking in an area provided by the restaurant was further evidence that the incident occurred while he was on the job.

The attorneys at Louis P. Lombardi II & Associates are experienced in handling all types of workers’ compensation claims.  We service the areas of Philadelphia, Montgomery and Bucks County, Pennsylvania and can be reached at (610)239-7600. Contact us for a consultation today.

Friday, July 18, 2014

PA Man Wins Settlement After Being Fired by Retaliating Employer

Companies, for obvious reasons, don't always appreciate employees trying to get them up to speed, though, particularly when federal safety officials are notified about the problems. In some cases, employers lash out at such employees either by firing them, demoting them, or some other form of ill or unfair treatment.

Read more . . .

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Sugar plant accident highlights risks for temp workers

Factory work presents many risks for workers, depending on the setting and the type of work being done. Employers, of course, have the duty of ensuring their employees and temporary workers are adequately protected. As we frequently point out on this blog, though, employers don't always do this.

A recent accident at a sugar plant in Fairless Hills, Pennsylvania, is an example of the serious consequences of safety failures on the part of an employer. An employee at the plant, according to investigators, had been buried alive in sugar after attempting to unclog a large hopper. Investigators pointed out that a manager at the plant had removed a safety device 13 days before the accident, which device would have prevented the employee's death had it been left on.

Read more . . .

Friday, June 27, 2014

Worker misclassification results in denial of benefits

Workplace injuries can often be prevented, but sometimes injuries occur because of the carelessness of a fellow employee. An example of this type of accident is a permanent hand injury suffered by a Pennsylvania truck driver when employees of other companies failed to properly cap his pressurized tank and later failed to safely correct the problem. As a result of these mistakes, the trucker suffered an injury for which he is seeking over $75,000 of damages.

Sources did not mention whether the trucker received workers' compensation benefits for his injuries. Truckers who are classified as employees, of course, have the ability to seek workers' compensation as a matter of course. There are situations, though, where truckers may not have this compensation available. This can happen when a worker is classified as an independent contractors when he is actually an employee.

Read more . . .

Friday, June 6, 2014

PA court rules in favor of deceased worker's claim

Employers are not always cooperative with workers' compensation claims and sometimes try to create barriers for an injured employee seeking recovery. One way of doing this is to claim that the employee's injury is not work-related. In cases where the injury clearly took place while the employee was on the job, the argument may be that the employee was not technically acting as an employee at the time of the injury.

This was the argument made by a Pittsburgh gas station when a workers' compensation claim was filed on behalf of a manager who was injured back in 2009 by a robber. According to sources, the manager tried to stop a robber who attempted to steal money from the cash register. In the process of doing so, he ended up with a traumatic brain injury which left him in a coma for a number of months before he died in April of 2010.

Read more . . .

Friday, May 30, 2014

Injured employees and the right to workers' compensation

In a recent post, we commented that employers are well aware of the costs of workers' compensation claims and, because of the financial impact of such claims, aren't always supportive of the rights of injured employers. A recent article in Small Business Trends highlights this issue, and notes that companies may be able to save money on workers' compensation claims by providing their employees voluntary accident and disability insurance as part of their benefits packages.

A certain number of employers have reported that offering such benefits can indeed decrease workers' compensation claims, and thereby the costs of workplace injury. In some cases, such insurance can be added by employers at no additional cost to the company. This is certainly a positive thing from an employer's perspective, but advocates for injured workers should view such recommendations with a healthy dose of skepticism, since they may not ultimately be for the benefit of workers.

Read more . . .

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Report shows workplace injuries to be costly

A recent report looking at workplace fatality statistics is a stark reminder of the risks some workers face every day on the job. The report, published by the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations, found that an average of 4,628 workers died on the job in 2012, and that an estimated additional 50,000 workers died from work-related diseases.

Based on these numbers, it is believed that an average of 150 workers die each day because of their work environment. In terms of the total number of work-related injuries and illnesses in 2012, the reported number was 3.8 million. This number, though, is mostly likely low due to underreporting.

Read more . . .

Friday, May 16, 2014

Report looks at prevalence, preventability of ladder accidents at work

Ladders in the workplace can be dangerous, for obvious reasons. When ladders are routinely used at work, the risk of workplace injuries increases, and employers need to ensure workers are properly trained and that they are observing appropriate safety practices.

According to a recent report by the Centers for Disease Control, one of the leading causes of workplace injuries and deaths is falls from ladders. The study says that roughly 20 percent of workplace fall injuries involve ladders, while about 43 percent of fatal falls over the last decade have involved ladders. In 2011, a total of 113 workers died from ladders falls, while there were about 15,500 ladder-related injuries requiring at least a day off work and 34,000 ladder-related injuries requiring a hospital visit.

Read more . . .

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Worker injured in Smethport plant explosion

An International Wax plant in Smethport, Pa reportedly exploded on Monday, leaving a worker injured. Following the explosion, the employee was reportedly treated for injuries at a local hospital and then released.  Whenever a workplace explosion occurs, authorities must conduct a thorough investigation.  

The explosion was so large that it significantly damaged a filter house, destroyed another building, and moderately damaged five other buildings.  It is remarkable that only one employee out of the roughly 130 that work at the plant was injured. In this case, the explosion investigation evidence suggested that it was simply an accident.

Read more . . .

Friday, May 2, 2014

Oil boom increases number of oil field deaths

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of work-related deaths among oilfield workers has significantly increased over the last several years. Specifically, a total of 545 oilfield workers died between 2008 and 2012 when the fracking boom was occurring.

Fracking, as many readers know, is the name for the process by which natural gas is extracted from shale deposits. The industry is big here in Pennsylvania, with the Marcellus shale being a major site for fracking in the state. In Pennsylvania, the number of oil field deaths increased 300 percent from the five year period prior to 2008-2012.

Read more . . .

Saturday, April 26, 2014

What isn't covered by Pennsylvania's workers' compensation laws?

No one wants to deal with a debilitating work-related injury or illness. After all, many working families depend on a regular stream of income to make ends meet. Getting injured on the job seemingly disrupts a person's earning potential. However, Pennsylvania residents can rest easy knowing that state workers' compensation laws cover nearly every worker.

According to the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry, employers within the state are generally required to carry workers' compensation insurance for all of their employees. This means that an individual who suffers an injury or illness as a result of work-related duties can seek financial coverage through the insurance policy.

Read more . . .

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