When you’re hurt on the job, the injury you suffer could have major negative impacts on your life. Because of that, an award of workers’ compensation benefits can be an important part of recovery from your injuries. Sometimes, you may be concerned that, if you made a less-than-perfect decision that played a role in your injury, you cannot obtain benefits. You should never simply assume you have no case. In many instances, you may still be entitled to an award of benefits. Always talk to an experienced Pennsylvania workers’ compensation attorney first.
A case from this past summer demonstrates how you can still recover benefits even if you got hurt as a result of your own poor decision. Robert was an HVAC mechanic working a job in Newtown. Robert’s job included cleaning condenser coils in air conditioning units. Most of those units were on the roofs of buildings. One June day, Robert arrived at work and got up on the roof, using a ladder placed on the building by roofers who were also working on the building.
When Robert finished his work, he gathered his tools and noticed that the roofers were gone, and so was their ladder. Robert had a cell phone, but he didn’t call anyone. He merely waited a half-hour and, after that time, walked to an area of the roof that was over a bed of mulch and only 16-20 feet off the ground. Thinking he could land safely, the mechanic jumped. Robert was wrong, and he suffered multiple fractures. He eventually required surgery to insert screws and plates into each of his heels. His doctor concluded that it could require up to two years of rehabilitation.
The mechanic filed a claim for workers’ compensation. The thrust of the employer’s argument against an award of benefits was that the mechanic’s injuries were his own fault. The employer contended that Robert’s deliberate and intentional act of jumping off the roof was the sole cause of his injuries and was outside his employment, so he wasn’t entitled to any benefits.
At his hearing, Robert testified that he thought he could jump to the ground safely but that, in retrospect, his decision to jump was “not smart.” Even though the workers’ compensation judge agreed with the employer that the mechanic’s decision to jump was extremely flawed, that fact, by itself, was not enough to deny Robert an award of workers’ compensation benefits. In Pennsylvania, the workers’ compensation system is a “no-fault” system. The law requires more than just an employee’s poor decision that resulted in injuries in order to trigger a denial of benefits. The employer would have needed the evidence to show that, not only did the mechanic make a bad choice, but also he either intentionally or deliberately injured himself when he jumped off the roof or jumped in the course of horseplay. Either of those could have triggered a denial of benefits, but the employer didn’t have proof of these.
In your workers’ compensation hearing, your own testimony may be one of the most powerful pieces of evidence in your favor. In Robert’s case, the workers’ compensation judge concluded that Robert was believable when he said that he did not intend to injure himself and that he thought he could navigate the jump safely. It helped that he was forthright with the judge in admitting that the jump “was not the best decision he has made in his life.”
The knowledgeable Pennsylvania workers’ compensation attorneys at Needle Law Firm have been providing strong and reliable representation and personalized attention to our clients for many years, aiding them at every step in the workers’ compensation process. Our team is ready to discuss your matter with you.
Contact us today for a free, no-obligation consultation by calling (570) 344-1266.
More blog posts:
How to Overcome the ‘Going and Coming Rule’ and Win Your Pennsylvania Case for Workers’ Compensation Benefits, Pennsylvania Accident Lawyer Blog, Dec. 18, 2017
Seeking Medical Treatment After a Work Injury in Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania Accident Lawyer Blog, Aug. 2, 2017