What Happens When You Receive Benefits Under the Heart & Lung Act and a Third-Party Insurance Settlement in Pennsylvania
When you are hurt on the job, you may have several different opportunities for recovery. There may be workers’ compensation benefits. There may be civil judgments. There may be insurance settlements. One of the keys to realizing a full and fair recovery is making sure that, if you get paid from multiple different sources, your employer doesn’t use this in an attempt to obtain reimbursement for things it paid, like workers’ compensation benefits. This is one of many ways in which experienced Pennsylvania workers’ compensation lawyers can help you.
One recent example of a worker receiving multiple payments was the case of Michael, a patrol officer for a police department in the greater Philadelphia area. In late November 2013, he was injured in a vehicle accident that took place while he was on duty. The employer acknowledged that the officer’s injury was compensable under workers’ compensation. Six weeks after the accident, Michael was back on the job, with no loss in earnings.
As a police officer, Michael was in a somewhat unique position. Pennsylvania has something called the Heart and Lung Act. This act calls for the payment of the full salaries of police officers and fire fighters who are disabled as a result of injuries incurred on duty. Police officers and fire fighters are eligible for benefits under both the Heart and Lung Act and the Workers’ Compensation Act. The workers’ compensation benefits you accrue while you’re receiving your full salary as Heart and Lung benefits, however, are turned over to your employer. In this case, the police department maintained separate accounts for paying workers’ compensation and Heart and Lung Act benefits. Michael received $9,100 of Heart and Lung benefits.
The officer also filed a claim against a third-party insurer and ultimately netted $33,200 from the settlement of that claim. This settlement prompted action by the employer. The employer argued in court that, since it had paid indemnity and medical benefits from its workers’ compensation fund, it was entitled to a piece of the officer’s insurance settlement.
The officer fought back, arguing that, since he was entitled to Heart and Lung Act benefits, it didn’t matter which account (Workers’ Compensation versus Heart and Lung) the employer used, and he was entitled to keep the insurance settlement money.
The Commonwealth Court sided with the officer. As the court pointed out, the Heart and Lung Act calls for the payment of both wages and medical benefits. The payment of medical benefits to the officer was mandated by the law. Whether the employer paid him from its Workers’ Compensation fund or its Heart and Lung Act fund didn’t matter. It was required to pay the officer and was not entitled to later go back and seek reimbursement from the officer’s third-party insurance settlement.
When you are hurt on the job, make sure you are protected. Act right away to contact the skilled Pennsylvania workers’ compensation attorneys at Needle Law Firm. Our dedicated attorneys are here to help you pursue the full and fair recovery you deserve.
Contact us today for a free, no-obligation consultation by calling 570-344-1266.