What is Workers’ Compensation?

Workers’ compensation is a state-mandated insurance program that provides compensation to employees who suffer job-related injuries and illnesses. While the federal government administers a workers’ compensation program for federal and certain other types of employees, each state has its own laws and programs for workers’ compensation.

Benefits include paid medical expenses and compensation for wages lost until a worker can return to work. These benefits are generally paid by the employer’s private insurance company, the State Workers’ Insurance Fund or the employer itself if it is self-insured.

In general, an employee with a work-related injury or illness can get workers’ compensation benefits regardless of who was the one at fault, whether the employee, the employer, a customer or a third party.

Are all on-the-job injuries covered by workers’ compensation?

Workers’ compensation covers most, but not all, on-the-job injuries. The workers’ compensation system is designed to provide benefits to injured workers no matter the circumstance. Generally, injuries that happen because an employee is intoxicated or using illegal drugs are not covered by workers’ compensation. Coverage may also be denied in situations involving:

  • Self-inflicted injuries (including those caused by a person who starts a fight)
  • Injuries suffered while a worker was committing a crime
  • Injuries suffered while an employee was not on the job

Does workers’ compensation cover long-term problems?

Your injury does not need to be caused by an accident (such as a slip or fall) to be covered by workers’ compensation. Many workers receive compensation for injuries that are caused by overuse or misuse over time (for example, repetitive stress injuries that result from excessive sitting or computer work).

You may also be compensated for some illnesses and diseases that are the gradual result of work conditions, such as heart conditions, lung disease and stress-related problems.

Can I still sue my employer for my injury?

Employees cannot sue their employers in the event of a work-related injury. When the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation ACT was enacted in 1915, Pennsylvanians gave up the constitutional right to sue for damages after a work injury. In return, they were guaranteed payment for lost wages and medical expenses. Meanwhile, their employers were freed from the ramifications of varying settlement amounts.

Are there any circumstances for which I couldn’t receive workers’ compensation?

Generally, if you are injured either on your way to or coming home from work, you are not covered by the Workers’ Compensation Act. However, if your job requires you to travel, you have no fixed place of employment, or you are under a contract that covers you while on your way to and from work, you may be covered.