Workers' Compensation

Friday, March 11, 2016

The Danger of Weed in the Workplace

Can I file a workers' comp claim if I get stoned at work and have an accident?

According to the Occupational Health and Safety Administration, the use of marijuana is having an impact in the workplace. As the number of pot smokers rises, more employees and job applicants are testing positive in drug-screening tests. If you fail a test as part of a pre-employment requirement, you will not be hired. If you are required to take a drug test at work and the results are positive, you could be disciplined or even fired. Ultimately, weed in the workplace is a safety issue.

The Dangers of Marijuana at Work

The primary reason for prohibiting use of marijuana in the workplace is because smoking grass on the job has been linked to job accidents and injuries stemming from the short-term effects of being high such as impaired body movement, difficulty thinking, memory problems and altered senses. In short, there is a link between illicit drug use and workplace accidents. While smoking pot mat be reasonably safe in a controlled environment, the fact that workplace safety may be jeopardized my individuals being stoned at work raises concerns.

This is especially an issue in work situations that involve the use of machinery or driving vehicles.
The impact of marijuana use on transportation safety is a clear and present danger. Some studies demonstrate the drug impairs attentiveness, motor coordination, and reaction time, and affects an individual's perception of time and speed. Moreover, pot smoking impacts driving performance and increases the risk of collisions, some of which can be deadly. Marijuana use may also trigger problems with attendance and worker productivity, which is becoming a greater issue as weed becomes more socially acceptable stemming from the liberalization of marijuana laws. That being said, marijuana is still classified as a Schedule I drug with a high potential for abuse.

Workplace Substance Abuse Policies

In light of the increased use of marijuana, it is crucial for employers to establish a strong workplace substance abuse policy. While smoking weed has been legalized in some states, employers may still ban the drug at work. Moreover, federal laws require certain industries and contractors to prohibit illegal drug use. Employers not covered by these federal laws still need to provide employees with a safe workplace. Of course, employees have a responsibility as well.

While workers who have an accident or are injured at work are entitled to compensation, if the injury was the result of drug or alcohol use, your claim will be denied, and you face the possibility of being disciplined or losing your job. If you were injured at work in Pennsylvania through no fault of your own, however, you should consult with an attorney who has expertise in workers' compensation law.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Proper Training Prevents Injuries

How can employee safety training prevent injuries?

Most individuals go to work every day expecting to work in a safe environment. Not only is this a normal expectation, it is a fundamental right of all workers. If they are denied this right, employees are more likely to suffer an injury or a work-related illness. One way for employers to ensure their employees have a safe workplace is to establish and implement employee safety training programs.

 Unfortunately, many companies have ineffective or even non-existent safety training programs. While this can jeopardize the safety of all workers, new employees are more frequently injured in workplace accidents or suffer from work-related illnesses.

What is the role of OSHA?

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires employers to provide safety training related to an employee's particular tasks as soon as he or she begins the job. This training must meet a number of different standards, all of which must ensure that work is performed in a safe manner. Workers also must be forewarned of the potential of exposure to hazards in the workplace.


In short, training and education are crucial for a strong injury and illness prevention program. Such programs often help employers identify and resolve workplace hazards before workers are injured, and can also reduce the number and severity of workplace injuries and illnesses.

Common Elements of Safety Training

According to OHSA, an effective safety training program includes the following elements:

  • Management leadership
  • Worker participation
  • Hazard identification, prevention and control
  • Education and training
  • Program evaluation and improvement 

Moreover, the best method of safety training is either classroom or one-on-one instruction that is in-depth and covers safety issues related to the employee’s position.

What are workers' rights?

Workers have the right to:

  • Work in a safe environment
  • Be covered by workers' compensation insurance
  • File a workers' comp claim
  • Receive medical treatment
  • Receive reimbursement for out-of-pocket medical expenses
  • Have a hearing
  • File an appeal

In sum, workplace injuries and illnesses can often be prevented if workers are provided with effective safety training. Nevertheless, some accidents are inevitable and workers can and do sometimes suffer injuries. If you have been involved in a workplace accident and have questions about your rights to receive benefits, you should consult with a qualified attorney with expertise in workers' compensation law.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Bureau of Labor Statistics on Workplace Injuries and Death

Is the workplace becoming safer or more dangerous?

A couple of weeks ago, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics released a preliminary report on work-related injuries and deaths; final data is scheduled to be released this spring. It is important to remember that such statistics are not merely abstract numbers -- they represent a great deal of pain, physical, emotional, and financial, to victims and their loved ones.

The news for Pennsylvania is somewhat heartening. Workplace fatalities in the Pittsburgh area are the lowest they have been since they were first charted in 2003. There were 18 workplace deaths in 2014, down from 29 the previous year. Across the country, however, the statistics are not leaning in the right direction. The nation has seen a 2 percent rise in worker deaths increasing from 4585 in 2013 to 4679 in 2014.

Common Causes of Worker Fatalities

The causes of worker deaths in Pennsylvania parallel those in other parts of the country --  accidents involving construction, transportation, farming, machine operation, mining warehousing, and slip and fall. Suicides and homicides also feature in the mortality statistics. Women are far less likely to die in the workplace than their male counterparts, because only about a tenth of the jobs in the most dangerous occupations are performed by women.

Examining the trends in worker injuries and fatalities in an effort to curb, or even eliminate, them, Pittsburgh's Area Director for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), Christopher Robinson, reports that the decline in fatalities reflects increased enforcement concerning common hazards, improved partnerships with trade associations, and expanded outreach to both employers and employees.

In recent years, OSHA's Pittsburgh office is focusing on falls, the second leading cause of worker injuries in 2014. Robinson declares, "We’ve placed a great amount (sic) of emphasis on enforcement when it comes to fall protection.” In addition, a death due to a mining accident in the southwestern part of the state a few days ago, the second fatality

in that mine during the last year, and the third mining fatality in the U.S. since January 4th, has drawn attention to the stark need for improvement in safety for mining workers.

While OSHA and other government agencies join forces with employers all over the country to improve the statistics regarding work-related injuries and deaths, workers' compensation benefits are available to workers hurt during their employment. If you have been injured in the workplace, it is important that you contact a skilled workers' compensation attorney to help you navigate the difficult waters of bureaucracy in order to obtain your rightful benefits.


Thursday, January 28, 2016

Workers' Compensation Board Blames Negligence for Worker's 40-foot Fall

What benefits are available to a worker who is paralyzed following a work-related accident?

Paralysis is one of the most severe workplace injuries an employee can endure, and is likewise compensated as such. In most cases, a paralyzed worker will be unable to ever return to the jobsite, a condition referred to as the “permanent loss of function.” In the event a workplace injury causes the permanent loss of a body part or extremity – either due to paralysis or dismemberment – the worker will likely receive total disability payments, equaling two-thirds of the worker’s average weekly wage at the time of the incident. If, after 104 consecutive weeks of benefits, the worker is still unable to return to the job, he or she will need to obtain a medical evaluation which must reflect a “profound” disabling condition.

West Chester man paralyzed by workplace negligence

In a truly horrific set of circumstances, a West Chester man was recently paralyzed from the waist down after falling 40 feet from a makeshift platform. Unbelievably, the man’s supervisor ordered another worker to lift him nearly three stories – using a rough-terrain front-loader, which ultimately toppled and caused the resulting 40-foot fall.

Following the incident, the employer was subjected to an immediate inspection by OSHA, which revealed widespread instances of negligent, dangerous workplace protocol. First, the company was cited for routinely misusing front-end loaders for unapproved uses – including, apparently, moving employees from one area to another. Further, the company was cited for failing to provide fall protection, and failing to properly train workers to recognize the instance of fall hazards. Likewise, the employer was penalized for haphazardly using unneeded equipment to weigh down scaffolding bases, a maneuver further solidifying the obvious patterns of carelessness and recklessness within the management of construction projects.

In a statement by the Philadelphia OSHA office, "[t]his tragedy could have been averted if these two companies had not been so careless about worker safety….A young man is now confined to a wheelchair because of the disregard of the employers at this site for the safety and well-being of their workers. Their actions are inexcusable and will not be tolerated.."

If you have suffered a workplace injury, a qualified attorney can help you obtain compensation.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Court Examines 'Medical-Only' Compensation Claim Case

What is a “medical-only” workers’ compensation claim?

In October, 2015, the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court analyzed a pivotal injury claim case, leading it to distinguish between a “Medical-Only Notice of Compensation Payable” and a full award of disability benefits including lost wages – two concepts with vastly different implications for the injured, out-of-work claimant.

In the case, known as Sloan v. W.C.A.B, an employee of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia injured her elbow while moving cervical traction weights for one of her patients. She made a workers’ compensation claim, which was accepted as a lateral epicondylitis of the right elbow. The injury was accepted by the employer as a Notice of Compensation Payable, and she was placed on partial disability with reduced pay.

In 2006, the claimant endured a second injury to her elbow and knee while attempting to restrain a patient. This time, however, the employer recognized her injury and provided for medical compensation only, as opposed to medical compensation and lost wages – a classification known as “medical-only NCP.”

In 2007, the claimant went through a total knee replacement, which she attributed to the 2006 incident causing her knee injury. In 2012, she filed for full disability benefits and the workers’ compensation judge found her totally disabled, and awarded her full disability compensation plus lost wages.

On appeal, to the Workers’ Compensation Board (WCB), the employer asserted that the claimant missed the 3-year statute of limitations for filing an injury claim. The claimant countered this argument by asserting that she was merely seeking a Reinstatement of Benefits (as opposed to an initial claim for benefits) – which allows for a 500-week statute of limitations from the date of the injury or the last payment of compensation. In rebuttal, the employer asserted that it never actually awarded full benefits in 2007, so there would be nothing to “reinstate” under the rules – and the 500-week statute of limitations was inapplicable.

In the end, the Commonwealth Court agreed: the statute of limitations for seeking lost wages in a “medical only NCP” case is 3 years from the date of the injury, and the NCP is not considered full “compensation” which would trigger reinstatement rules under the workers’ compensation guidelines.

To learn more about the distinction between a medical-only NCP case and the granting of full disability benefits, contact a personal injury attorney knowledgeable in the field of workers' compensation.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Laws Make It Difficult for Those with Occupation Related Diseases to Recover

Why is it difficult to win an occupation related illness claim in Pennsylvania?

It is some times the case that work related injuries and diseases are easy to identify.  For example, if someone falls off a faulty ladder at work and breaks an arm, it is pretty clear that this person’s injuries were a result of his or her work related activities.  But, other work related ailments reveal themselves years, even decades later.  Can you still receive workers’ compensation for these injuries?  The answer is yes but it is a conditional one.  The State of Pennsylvania makes it hard for those withwork related diseases to recover from the workers’ compensation system.

In Pennsylvania, workers’ compensation claims have to be filed no later than three hundred weeks after the claimant’s last exposure to the hazardous substance.  It is important to note that the deadline does not run from the time when the claimant first becomes aware of his or her illness.  Therefore, if the illness does not reveal itself within the time period, the claimant is left without recourse in the workers’ compensation system and must file a traditional civil lawsuit instead. 

Another aspect of workers’ compensation that makes it difficult for Pennsylvania claimants to recover for work related diseases it the evidentiary standard placed on the claimants.  In this system, the claimants are responsible for proving by a preponderance of the evidence that workplace exposure was more likely than not the cause of their illness.  This means that the majority of the evidence has to show that the injury was work related.  Although this is the standard traditionally used in civil cases, it is not an easy one to meet in these types of cases.

If you have a work related disease, you need an attorney by your side.  The Montgomery and Bucks County, Pennsylvania attorneys at Louis P. Lombardi, III & Associates are ready to fight for you.  Contact us by calling (610) 239-7600 to discuss your case today. 

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

Monday, November 23, 2015

Workers’ Compensation Denied to Mom Paid to Care for Disabled Son

Can someone receive workers’ comp if they are paid by the state to care for a relative?

Some workers’ compensation cases are clear-cut -- A person is injured while clearly on the job and within the scope of his or her employment and, therefore, benefits should be awarded.  Unfortunately, not all cases are this simple. Take, for example, the case of a Pennsylvania mom who was stabbed while caring for her disabled son.

Laura O’Rourke cared for her 33-year-old son, Joshua Gartland, who was known to suffer from substance abuse issues and one of whose legs had been amputated. O’Rourke was paid to care for her son pursuant to an agreement with the state of Pennsylvania. An argument broke out between the two when O’Rourke delayed in fixing Gartland something to eat. Later that evening, Gartland went into O’Rourke’s bedroom, stabbed her repeatedly in the chest and slashed her throat. O’Rourke’s husband, who was also in the room at the time, was able to prevent Gartland from killing his mother. 

After the attack, O’Rourke, who was now out of work, applied to the state for workers’ compensation benefits. After an appeal, a Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court awarded her $466 a month. After the award, Gartland challenged the decision from prison and the Pennsylvania Supreme Court found that O’Rourke was not eligible for benefits. Although O’Rourke argued that she was required by the contract to reside in a home with her son, the court disagreed.  As such, the court found that the attack was not work-related and that benefits should be denied.

When applying for Workers' Compensation benefits, it is always wise to have the assistance of a skilled attorney who specializes in such cases.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

PTSD and Workers' Compensation in Pennsylvania

Is post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) considered a compensable injury under Pennsylvania workers’ compensation laws?

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition characterized by extreme bouts of anxiety and/or depression triggered by an exceptionally traumatic event. The disorder is often associated with military service, but is also implicated in victims of violent crime or witnesses to horrific disasters.

Following years of intense litigation, the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Board finally approved full disability benefits based solely on a diagnosis of PTSD – but this victory was not without significant pushback and obstacle. Today, PTSD is a recognized and acknowledged disability triggering full- or part-time workers’ compensation benefits, provided the facts surrounding the traumatic event meet certain criteria.

History of PTSD in PA Workers’ Compensation Law

The hallmark PTSD workers’ compensation case occurred just two years ago and involved a PTSD disability claim by a state trooper claiming an inability to return to work after a woman successfully committed suicide by jumping in front of the trooper’s vehicle as he traveled to work. At the outset, his claim was denied on the premise that “normal working conditions for law enforcement include accidents, bodily injuries and death.” However, on appeal, the appellate tribunal held otherwise, concluding that this particular incident is not “normal” within the range of law enforcement duties, and was ultimately compensable.

In 2015, another PTSD case wound its way through the appeals process, and involved a 30-year employee of the PA Liquor Control Board who was violently robbed in April, 2008. While enduring constant fear that he would be robbed and bound again, the employee was unable to return to work and was ultimately diagnosed with PTSD. Again, the initial claim for benefits was denied on the egregious premise that robbery was a “normal” component of working as a liquor store clerk. On appeal, however, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court vacated this opinion and remanded the case back to Commonwealth Court for a retrial – in which the claimant was ultimately successful.

If you are considering a workers’ compensation claim and would like to discuss your options, please do not hesitate to contact Louis P. Lombardi & Associates, P.C. today: 610-239-7600.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

General Information about Workers Compensation in Pennsylvania

I was injured at work. Do I have the right to be compensated for my injuries?

The right to be compensated for workplace injuries is encapsulated in the Workers Compensation Law. Pursuant to this law, employers are required to provide compensation for injuries which occur on the job. The types of expenses covered include medical expenses, wage-loss compensation, and if the injury is fatal, death benefits.

What type of injuries are covered? Pennsylvania law requires employers to be responsible for compensating for illness, injury, or disease, except when such is intentionally caused by the employee or caused by the employee’s violation of the law. On a more morbid topic, if the injury is one that severs a body part from one’s body, the employer is required to compensate the employee for the loss of that part. Occupational diseases are generally covered if caused by, or aggravated by, employment.

It is important to note that the employer’s responsibility to compensate the employee for injuries is contingent on the employee notifying the employer that such an injury has occurred. Failure to notify one’s employer in a timely fashion can eliminate the employee’s right to benefits.

The employee has the right to choose the healthcare provider, except in instances where employers have posted an exclusive list of accepted health care providers. Employees should verify coverage before undergoing treatment to avoid out-of-pocket expenses.

If there is a dispute with the employer, cooperation is recommended. If such communication is unsuccessful, the dispute may be forwarded for a hearing before an administrative judge.

It is important to recognize that professional representation at such a hearing can be crucial to the accurate resolution of the claim. The employer and insurance carrier will surely be represented by experienced counsel, and without corresponding representation, the employee is at a disadvantage. In order to obtain highly skilled legal counsel for such a hearing, or for any and all interaction with the workers compensation system in the greater Philadelphia metropolitan area, call Louis P. Lombardi II & Associates toll free at 888-818-4343 or locally at 610-239-7600 to speak to an experienced attorney today.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Pennsylvania Indicts Workers’ Compensation Fraudster

What happens if someone tries to cheat or lie on their worker’s compensation claim?

When claimants take advantage of the workers’ compensation system, it becomes more difficult for valid claimants to benefit from a system set up to help those who are truly injured and in need of financial assistance.

Under Pennsylvania law, workers’ compensation fraud is a crime. In addition, this sort of misconduct is also punishable under federal fraud laws – as is the case in a recent indictment entered against a Chambersburg-area man accused of bilking funds from the Federal Employees Compensation Act (FECA) program, which assists federal workers injured on the job.

According to media reports, the defendant was charged with five separate counts of workers’ compensation fraud. The counts in total amounted to over $143,000 in payouts over the years, which is money that could have been used by claimants with legitimate workplace injury claims.

Allegedly, the defendant applied for benefits in 2011 after suffering an injury while working with the Army Corps of Engineers. He continued to apply for, and receive, benefits for several years thereafter based on his assertion he was too injured to return to his job. However, as an investigation ultimately revealed, the claimant was working the entire time for a catering company known as “CM Pig Out,” and collecting benefits on top of his regular wages.

The case was investigated by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Inspector General’s Office of Labor Racketeering and Fraud Investigations, which is responsible for mitigating this type of issue.

Under Pennsylvania law, anyone with suspicions of workers’ compensation fraud is encouraged to report the information directly to the Office of Attorney General. Workers’ compensation fraud can occur on the part of the claimant or employer, with cases against the latter often involving misclassification of employees to avoid having to make payouts.

If you are experiencing difficulty with your workers’ compensation claim and would like to speak to a reputable attorney, please do not hesitate to contact Louis P. Lombardi, II & Associates today: 610.239.7600 or 888.818.4343.

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