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Commonwealth Court Reinstates Workers’ Compensation Judge’s Ruling in Favor of Injured Driver

To obtain workers’ compensation benefits in Pennsylvania, an injured party only has to show that she or he was injured while in the course of employment.  While the Workers’ Compensation Act provides a more direct path for injured employees to recover medical expenses for injuries on the job than a civil action, the determination of what “on the job” means is not always clear.  An employee can be injured while “on the clock” but not receive workers’ compensation benefits if his or her actions were not furthering the interests of the employer.  Likewise, even if an employee quit or was fired from a position, if he or she performed acts under the direction of the employer or to fulfill a job duty at the end of the employment relationship, he or she may be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits.

The Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania recently reviewed that specific issue in Marazas v. Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board.  The employee was a driver technician for a corporation hauling medical equipment.  After hauling equipment on-call all weekend, the employee came into work on Monday to receive his itinerary for the day, which would have taken till midnight to complete.  The driver’s request to have some stops removed from the itinerary was denied by his manager, which led him to quit his position.  After he turned in his keys and phone, the manager requested he remove his belongings from the truck.  As she accompanied him to complete this task, he fell and tripped on a pallet jack and injured himself.  The employee sought medical treatment through the workplace physician, and he was denied under the explanation that the service was only available to active employees.

The employee then filed a personal injury suit against the employer in state court, but the action was removed because the employer argued the employee was prevented from filing a personal injury action because he was performing a work duty at the time of the injury, which limited him to the remedy of workers’ compensation benefits.  The employer then turned around and argued in the workers’ compensation suit that the employee was not eligible for workers’ compensation because he quit. The Commonwealth Court declined to adopt the argument of the employee that the employer, by arguing that the employee was an employee in the civil action, was legally precluded from changing its position on the employee’s status.  However, the Commonwealth Court did adopt the findings of the Workers’ Compensation Judge that the employee was acting on the direction of the employer in furtherance of his employment when he tripped and fell at the truck with his manager.  The Commonwealth Court reversed the Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board’s decision and reinstated the WCJ’s ruling in favor of the employee.

The Pennsylvania workers’ compensation attorneys at Needle Law Firm have the experience you need to successfully pursue your claim.  We know that employers’ insurance companies are not interested in providing you and your family with the full amount of recovery you need, and we will aggressively litigate to maximize your benefits.  For a free, confidential consultation today, contact our office at 570-344-1266.

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