Are You Searching For A Work Injury Lawyer Near Me?
You have landed on the site of the ‘best injury lawyer near me’!
The world has dramatically changed since the Pandemic. Most court rules and procedures have been changed Forever! Witness and expert depositions, and even the Workers’ Compensation Hearings before the Judge are now largely conducted by video.
Every Injured Worker throughout Pennsylvania now has the ability to choose from among the best lawyers across the state, regardless of where you live and work. You can meet us, get face-to-face status reports on your case, and even testify from your own home by video conference (in most cases).
We are also available to meet you in-person at our office in Media, Delaware County. We have been open every week day since the virus began, with all appropriate safety procedures and practices for your protection.
Why should I choose Schmidt, Kirifides & Rassias?
Because we are INJURY LAWYERS WHO CARE !
Our Mission is to achieve the best outcome for YOU. Some lawyers handle every case like ‘just another file.’ At SKR, we truly care about each client’s unique situation. We understand the financial, emotional and family stress caused by an injury. We provide personal attention, focused on YOUR needs.
Personal Attention means your lawyer will know YOU, and your case. And you will know Your Lawyer.
At some law firms, especially large, impersonal mega-firms, a different lawyer may handle each different ‘event’ during your case. You might meet an ‘intake specialist’ to sign you up. Another attorney (maybe one you never even met) might attend a preliminary hearing, while still others handle depositions and testimony of witnesses and medical experts. Finally, a brief writer who only knows the contents of your ‘file’ based on typed transcripts – might be the one to argue your case at the conclusion. No one lawyer truly knows YOUR case, YOUR needs, or YOU.
At Schmidt, Kirifides & Rassias you get personal attention. Our lawyers work together, but you will know YOUR lawyer, and your lawyer will know YOU – the person, not just the contents of your file.
Knowledge of the Law is just as important as knowing you – the person. Every lawyer at Schmidt, Kirifides & Rassias has at least 28-30+ years of experience. Every workers’ compensation lawyer is a CERTIFIED WORK INJURY SPECIALIST* pursuant to the experience, testing and continuing education required by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, and the PA Bar Association. Every work injury lawyer at SKR handles ONLY workers’ compensation cases, and each has argued cases to the Highest Courts in Pennsylvania. Our lawyers do not just ‘dabble’ in workers’ compensation matters – workers’ compensation is what we do – every case, every day.
Our Personal Injury lawyer and staff complement the workers’ compensation team, to handle every aspect of your claim in one firm. When different law firms handle separate parts of a single case, conflicts can arise where each lawyer is maximizing their separate part of your case (and maximizing their fee) – rather than achieving the best total outcome for you.
The lawyers at Schmidt, Kirifides & Rassias are Ready, Willing and KNOWN to Fight – for you. Insurance companies are a business. Their goal is to make money – NOT to help innocent injured people.
They are NOT your ‘Friendly Neighbor’; they are NOT ‘On Your Side’; and you most definitely are NOT ‘in Good Hands’. Their decision to pay or fight or settle is motivated by one factor – Money. For them, deciding which option will cost them the least amount of money is nothing more than a business decision. Insurance companies, and the lawyers defending them know that Schmidt, Kirifides & Rassias will fight for our clients.
Can I Get A Settlement?
This is probably the most frequently asked question. There are FOUR values for any given case. These values, in descending order, are:
• What the injured person thinks is fair
• What the claim is actually worth
• What the insurance company is willing to pay
• What the insurance company thinks it’s worth
An Injured person lives with the pain, disability, and stress every day. There is not enough money in the world to compensate for everything that has and will continue to affect them since the injury occurred.
What a claim is “actually worth” is based on statistics. What have other people, with similar injuries and lost incomes, received by way of settlement varies. It’s not what is “fair”, but simply a hard/cold mathematical calculation based on other, similar cases.
Skipping to number 4 – the lowest figure is what the insurance company thinks your case is worth. Insurance companies believe (or act like) everyone is faking or exaggerating. They tend to offer a nuisance value, just to avoid the cost of continuing to pay their own lawyers.
The “ultimate” settlement figure is #3 – whatever the insurance company is willing to pay. Regardless of every other “value” – if the insurance company refuses to pay it – then a deal won’t happen. In Workers’ Compensation, there is no verdict by a Judge or Jury to end the case. No judge can force a settlement. Not even the Appeal Courts. Instead, a Judge’s decision on any given petition simply determines whether the weekly checks continue – or stop. It is basically an “all or nothing” system.
As a result, both sides have to agree on the amount of money, and every condition or there is no settlement. The insurance company can not be forced to pay more than they want to pay, and the injured worker cannot be forced to take less than they want.
However, failure to settle does not mean a claimant stays on comp forever. There are NUMEROUS ways an insurance company can challenge the injured worker’s right to benefits – and if the Judge rules against the injured worker – they could end up with nothing – no weekly checks, no payment of medical bills, and no settlement. The claimant must win EVERY challenge, EVERY time – just to keep their benefits. The insurance company only needs to win once – just once, and the claim might be over.
You NEED a lawyer who knows the law, and is willing to fight. You NEED a lawyer that insurance company’s know will fight. Those are the lawyers – and clients – who receive maximum value for their injuries. Insurance companies know what lawyers and law firms fight – and which lawyers just want quick, cheap settlements. Insurance Companies, opposing lawyers and even the Workers’ Compensation Judges know that the CERTIFIED WORKERS’ COMPENSATION SPECIALISTS* at Schmidt, Kirifides & Rassias fight cases to win!
[* Every work injury lawyer at Schmidt, Kirifides & Rassias is a Certified Specialist, pursuant to the requirements of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, and the PA Bar Association.]
What’s My Claim Worth?
Every case is UNIQUE. Multiple clients with the same exact injury or diagnosis will be offered different settlement amounts, based on literally dozens of factors, including, but not limited to:
• What is the weekly benefit rate > How long have you been disabled
• How much has been paid to date > How much is payable “per year”
• What is the accepted injury > Should other injuries be included
• What medical bills have been paid > What bills are still owed
• What future treatment is necessary > What is the cost of future treatment
• Is there other insurance available > Are there Medicare or Social Security issues
• Is there a petition already pending > What are the risks of litigation
• Who is the Judge > Who is the Defense Lawyer
• Who is the insurance company > Who is the Defense Doctor
• Do you have other medical conditions > What is your financial need
• Do you WANT to return to this job > Is there work you think you can do
How can a lawyer help me?
The lawyer’s job is protect the client’s “best interest”. That may be different for each client, based on their medical condition, preferences, and the risks involved with fighting the case. Step one is to ensure the client receives the benefits they are entitled to – based on the law. This includes the proper weekly benefit rate, and coverage for all medical treatment required for the work injury. Step two is to review the pros and cons of fighting to keep receiving weekly benefits, or to explore settlement. Some clients may think they want one thing, but a detailed discussion of the case reveals they “need” something else. Too many lawyers focus on their own desire to settle each case for a quick fee. At Schmidt, Kirifides & Rassias, we listen to you, and we provide advice and recommendations based on your individual circumstances. We help you by first figuring out what your personal “best interest” is; and then help you to achieve that result.
1. Do you want a lump-sum settlement, or do you want to stay on weekly checks?
2. Do you need future treatment, and do you have a means or other insurance coverage to pay for it?
3. Do you want the ‘process’ all over with – and no risk of what “might happen” in the future; or take the risk of future litigation, and outcome?
What benefits are available for my work injury?
Workers’ Compensation is not the same as a personal injury claim, such as a car or truck accident, slip and fall, or medical malpractice claim (also referred to as negligence claims or Third Party claims). Work related injuries are covered by a completely different set of laws, called the Workers’ Compensation Act, created in 1915. Although there have been several changes to THE ACT over the past 100+ years, the main benefits and rules are the same. Most significantly, there is no award or benefit for “pain and suffering”.
As a general rule, benefits are limited to a weekly benefit rate to cover the wages or salary lost as a result of being disabled from work, and payment of the medical bills for the work injury.
An amputation or permanent “loss of use” of a body part, or a disfigurement (scar) above the collar bone may entitle the injured worker to what is referred to as “specific loss” benefits.
Incidents resulting in death entitle specified heirs or dependants to ‘fatal claim’ benefits.
How is my wage loss benefit rate determined?
Workers compensation does not pay the injured worker’s full salary, but a “rate” based on mathematical formulas set forth in the law. Generally, the injured worker’s average weekly wage over one full year before the work injury is determined first, and the rate is determined by a chart, updated each year by the Bureau of Worker’s Compensation. There are minimum and maximum rates, and other categories in between. The rate is lower than the full salary because workers’ compensation benefits are not taxable. The goal is to (try) to have the injured worker receive the same amount as before the injury – and not “profit” by being injured.
Medical bills are also not paid at “whatever” amount a treatment provider might charge, but are paid at specified rates set forth on rate tables established by the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation – based on the billing code for any procedure, service, medicine, or equipment. A medical treatment provider located in Pennsylvania may not charge the injured worker for any balance greater than the approved rate. Medical providers with no PA office may have different rights to seek collection, subject to a legal analysis of any conflicting laws.
Why (and how) would the insurance company deny my claim?
An employer (or their insurance company) has 21 days from the date they are notified of a work injury to accept or deny the claim – which must be done on specific forms. A claim can be accepted “Temporarily”, and/or only in part (acceptance to pay medical bills, but not lost wages). A Temporary acceptance can be revoked by the employer within 90 days, which must also be done by filing the proper forms with the Department of Labor & Industry, Bureau of Workers’ Compensation, and serving a copy on the injured worker.
A claim may be denied for any variety of reasons, including but not limited to the incident being unwitnessed, a pre-exiting medical condition, the injured workers’ violation of the law or disobeying a specific employer instruction to avoid the activity resulting in the injury. In many cases, the claim is denied without a defense, and the insurance company will make-up the defense as they go, such as by requesting an opinion of a doctor they hire (at substantial cost) to contest the injury or its cause. In other situations, the claim might be accepted in part, such as agreeing to pay medical bills, but denying the claimant is “disabled”. The description of the injury on the official Bureau forms may also limit the injury accepted to minor sprains and strains.
If a claim is accepted, the employer must state on the official form the nature of the injury they are accepting (the body part and diagnosis), and identify the injured worker’s average weekly wage and benefit rate. Insurance companies often only accept relatively minor injuries, such as a sprain, strains, and contusions, and deny or simply ignore more serious medical conditions. They only have to pay for medical treatment of the diagnosis they have accepted; and, when they seek to stop paying benefits, they only need to prove the relatively minor injury has resolved.
If a claim is denied, in whole or part; if the description of injury or the calculation of the salary and benefit rate are not correct – it is the injured worker’s responsibility to file the appropriate petition to have the issues addressed by a Workers Compensation Judge. The injured worker then must present sufficient evidence to prove their allegations are correct.
What are my duties or obligations after I get hurt?
The injured worker has many legal obligations after a work injury. As one (now retired) Judge often said, after suffering a work injury, pursuing the claim becomes the injured worker’s new job.
Notice: The employee must notify the employer (someone in a supervisory or management capacity; NOT a co-worker) of the incident and their injury within 21 days of the incident, or benefits are not payable until proper Notice is given. If Notice is not provided within 120 days of the incident – no benefits are payable at all. With some types of injuries (such as those caused by repetitive activity; exposure to a toxic substance; or any condition not readily known by a layperson to be due to their employment) the date for providing Notice begins when the worker knows or should have known of the relationship to their work.
Company Doctor: When an employer has fulfilled their duty to provide a VALID list of Panel Physicians (company doctors), the injured worker must obtain treatment from one of the Panel Physicians for 90 days after the work injury. An injured worker may also see a doctor of their choice, but the bills of that non-approved doctor are not required to be paid by workers compensation. There are many requirements for a list of company doctors to be “valid”. If no list exists, if a list does exist but is not valid, OR if the claim has been denied, the injured worker can seek treatment with a physician of their own choosing. If the list fails to include the type of doctor the injured worker requires, the claimant can choose any doctor they wish to see.
Expert Exams: Insurance companies are entitled to have the injured worker attend several different types of expert exams “periodically”, to determine whether the injured worker is still totally, or partially disabled; whether work is available to them within their capabilities; or other legal options available to the insurance company to challenge the injured worker’s right to ongoing benefits. These exams include Independent Medical exams (IME) [often called a Defense Medical Exam (DME) by claimant lawyers]; vocational interviews; or an Impairment Rating Evaluation (IRE). The injured worker must attend (most) such exams, or their benefits may be suspended. There are a number of legal bases upon which the claimant or their attorney may lodge a legal objection to the exam. What happens after the interview is discussed below.
How And When can the insurance company STOP my Benefits?
There are MANY options available to insurance companies to challenge, or stop paying the injured worker’s benefits- more than the few discussed here. The most common include a Petition to Terminate, Modify or Suspend payment. Each type of petition has certain requirements that one of the parties must prove (discussed in more detail below). As a general rule, whichever party is trying the change the current status of benefits is the party that must prove [to the satisfaction of a Workers’ Compensation Judge (WCJ)] that the status can and should be changed.
The insurance company can also file a Notification of Suspension or Modification – without needing court approval – if the claimant has returned to work. The claimant has 21 days to “Challenge” such a Notice.
Benefits can stop if the claimant signs certain forms (which should ALWAYS be reviewed by a lawyer first).
The most preferred method to stop benefits is by way of settlement. To get full and fair value (and not be taken advantage of), the terms should be negotiated by an experienced Workers’ Compensation Specialist.
Types of Petitions & Authority of Judge
[Note: some information below is specific to claims during the Covid Pandemic; but may become permanent]
Workers’ Compensation issues are started by a petition, filed in the workers’ compensation system through the Department of Labor & Industry, Bureau of Workers’ Compensation – which is separate from all other types of legal issues. Even prior to the Covid Pandemic, the system had converted to a paperless, automated computer system called WCAIS. Though possible, injured workers without counsel, and even attorneys not ‘registered’ with the system may have difficulty navigating the procedures.
The injured worker (claimant) may file a petition seeking benefits, or trying to change an incorrect description of injury or benefit rate. The insurance company or employer (defendant) may file a petition challenging the claimant’s right to ongoing benefits. The petition will be assigned to a Workers’ Compensation Judge (WCJ). These Judges handle ONLY workers compensation matters, and do not have authority or Jurisdiction to hear other types of claims. Each Judge has their own procedures and preferences – within the scheme of the Workers’ Compensation Act. Though rare, failure to follow the Judge’s procedures can result in the Dismissal or Granting of a Petition (depending upon which party filed the petition and which party violated the “rules”).
The WCJ will accept each party’s evidence and hear “live” testimony (or testimony by video) from any witness either party wishes to present. Experts usually testify by deposition, and a typed transcript is ‘uploaded’ to the Judge through the WCAIS system. The Judge has very broad discretion to believe or reject the testimony of any witness, so long as they state their reasons for doing so.
In virtually every case, one or both parties may be ‘unhappy’ with the result – feeling the Judge decided against their position by improperly accepting the opponent’s evidence as more believable than their own evidence. Deciding the ‘facts’ is the WCJ’s job. Appeal courts do NOT make their own decision on the credibility of witnesses and other evidence. The Appellate Courts’ authority is limited to determining whether the WCJ correctly described the evidence; stated their reasons; and/or applied the law to the ‘credible’ evidence correctly. It is essential to repeat – the Appellate Court will NOT review the evidence, and make their own determination regarding which evidence is credible. That is solely the Judge’s role.
Petitions to Terminate, Suspend and/or Modify Benefits:
These are the most common petitions an insurance company might file, challenging an injured workers’ right to continue receiving benefits. Each of these petitions is usually based on the opinion of one or more experts hired by the insurance company and will be contested by evidence presented by the claimant. The Judge will decide which evidence they believe.
A Termination Petition alleges the claimant is fully recovered from the work injury. If the Judge accepts the insurance company’s evidence as believable, all benefits are “terminated”.
A Suspension Petition can be based on several different legal theories:
• there is work available to the injured worker within their physical capabilities, and at wages equal to or greater than their pre-injury average weekly wage;
• the injured worker has, in fact, returned to work at equal or greater earnings;
• the injured worker failed to attend a Court Ordered Expert Exam;
• the injured worker has been incarcerated following a conviction; or
• the injured worker has voluntarily removed themselves from the workforce (usually by way of retirement).
If the Judge believes the employer’s evidence, wage loss benefits are “suspended”, but the claimant has the right to continue getting medical treatment, paid by workers’ comp.
A Modification Petition can again take several different forms:
• that work is available to the claimant, but at wages less than their pre-injury earnings;
• that the claimant has, in fact, returned to work at lower earnings;
• that the injured worker’s condition is reasonably presumed to be permanent, and an Impairment Rating Evaluation has determined their impairment is less than 35%, pursuant to AMA Guidelines.
If benefits are “modified”, the insurance company must still pay some weekly wage loss benefits – at a rate determined by the “facts”, as decided by the Judge. The right to ongoing medical treatment continues as well.
The term “job availability” is based on legal criteria. For injuries suffered before 1996, the insurance company must prove a number of elements, the most significant is that there was an actual job offered to the injured worker. The 1996 amendments to the Workers’ Compensation Act eliminated the insurance company’s obligation to prove an actual job “offer”. The insurance company’s vocational expert now only needs to prepare a document called a Labor Market Survey (or “Earning Power Assessment”), demonstrating the types of jobs that are available in the general labor market within the claimant’s physical capabilities (which capabilities are usually based on the opinion of the insurance company’s doctor).
Reinstatement of Benefits
If an injured worker’s benefits are terminated, modified or suspended, the injured worker can still file a Petition to Reinstate wage loss benefits. The elements the injured worker needs to prove (to the satisfaction of the Judge) and the likelihood of success, vary depending on how and why the benefits were discontinued; and the reason and evidence to show a change in circumstances since the benefits were reduced/stopped.
A Request for Utilization Review challenges whether past or recommended treatment is reasonable and necessary. It can be filed by either party, but overwhelmingly is a tool used by insurance companies to stop an injured worker’s right to treatment – even where the insurance company acknowledges that the disability continues.
Total vs. Partial Disability
In the wage loss system of workers compensation, there is no such thing as a “permanent” injury. There is only totally disabled, or partially disabled. These are legal definitions, not medical definitions, nor even based on plain English.
Totally disabled applies when an injured worker is not working, and there is no evidence of job availability. Under this definition, wage loss benefits theoretically can last for life.
Partial disability applies where an injured worker has returned to work, or a Judge determines they can work, AND there are jobs available within their capabilities. Partial disability provides wage loss benefits for a maximum of 500 weeks, but no limit on medical treatment. Other methods can be used by the insurance company to reduce the 500 week period. This is a maximum – not a ‘guarantee’.
Impairment Rating Evaluations (IRE)
Pennsylvania’s Worker’s Compensation is/was a “wage loss system”. Changes to the Act in 1996 were found Unconstitutional in 2017; but the Legislature of Pennsylvania revised the law in 2018 to (try) to make these types of exams proper. Many (if not all) lawyers fighting for the rights of injured workers are still contesting the new law as unconstitutional. It may take more than 10 years to get a definitive answer from the Appellate Courts. In the meantime, IREs are being widely used by insurance companies to limit the duration a claimant can receive benefits.
What are they?
A different type of medical exam the injured worker must attend (or risk a suspension of benefits) will determine the ‘percentage of bodily impairment’ caused by the work injury. If the impairment is less than 35%, the status changes from ‘total’ disability to ‘partial’ disability – without the need to show work is available. The 500 week limit once again applies to wage loss benefits – but does not affect medical treatment.
How is the percentage determined?
Impairment is based on “permanency” of an injury – which, as stated above, did not exist under PA law before 1996.
A specially qualified expert determines the percentage of the injured worker’s “whole body impairment” with reference to arbitrary mathematical formulas established by the AMA. The Guides themselves state they should not be used for litigation or to determine the type or duration of any type of benefits any injured person should receive – yet many states have adopted the Guides. Some medical experts involved in creating The Guides have also criticized their ‘value’ stating there is no objective way to verify their accuracy, nor to change the rating system to account for scientific advancements.
Schmidt, Kirifides & Rassias is ‘in the fight’ to have these exams once again determined to violate the Constitution.
Social Security and Medicare Set-Asides
The interaction between workers compensation “disability” benefits and an individual’s potential right to simultaneously receive Social Security and/or Medicare Benefits has significant pros and cons, which must be carefully considered on a case-by-case basis.
Medicare has a right, by Federal Law (not Pennsylvania WC law) to demand a piece of a WC settlement, through something called a Medicare Set Aside. Whatever amount the Federal Government demands, the defendant must either agree to pay, keep medical “open” (or simply decide not to settle). The money “Set Aside” must be used to pay for treatment at the same rate that medicare would pay (and only for types of treatment Medicare would cover). Once the Set-Aside funds are used-up, Medicare will take over payment of treatment.
Medicare does not pay for any and all treatment, but pays the types of services approved by Medicare Guidelines. They also do not pay 100% of the bills, but require the recipient of benefits (you) make a co-payment. In deciding whether or not to agree to a “Set-Aside”, your future treatment needs, and costs must be carefully considered.
Social Security presents different issues. There are “disability” Social Security benefits, and “Age Related Social Security”. There is a very big difference. With the disability benefit, the Federal Government pays a reduced rate; and WC pays the full benefit rate. When the WC claim is settled, a mathematical formula based on life expectancy (usually) results in an increase in the monthly SS benefit. The “Age-related” benefit, is the opposite. Social Security would pay the full benefit rate you are entitled to, and workers comp pays a significantly reduced benefit rate.
Generally, once an injured worker receiving the disability benefit becomes eligible for the age-related benefit, the government switches you automatically. WHY? Because the sooner you start taking you “age-related” benefit, the lower that rate will be – so the Federal Government wants to pay you the lowest rate they can. When the switch is made is not up to you – it is determined by the government. Once that happens, your workers’ comp rate will be reduced – significantly.
Whether or not to apply for Social Security and/or Medicare while still receiving workers’ compensation benefits; and whether or not to settle your workers’ compensation case requires a detailed conversation about the unique facts of your case with a Certified Workers’ Compensation Specialist – to make sure the decision you make is the correct decision, based on knowing the actual rights and options available.
I Can barely pay my bills, so how and why do I need to pay a lawyer?
We understand why so many injured workers are reluctant to hire a lawyer. You are not alone. Every client we have is in financial despair due to being injured – something they never wanted or expected. “The system” was actually designed to recognize this and speed up the process, but over the 100 years+ that this has been the law, insurance companies have learned the loop-holes and strategies that benefit them, and hurt the injured worker. It will never be said, and definitely not put in writing, but one of their primary strategies is to “starve the claimant out”. In other words, they intentionally delay the process so long that the claimant either returns to work while still injured, or accepts a low-ball settlement offer just to pay the bills and put food on the table.
The delays and cost to pay a lawyer also benefit insurance companies when the injured worker does not obtain a lawyer – to avoid the deduction from their weekly benefit check to pay the lawyer’s fee. They think they can handle their claim by themselves – because they know it is a real injury, and they are telling the truth. Unfortunately, knowing the facts and telling the truth is ‘not good enough’. The insurance company has an entire team of highly trained professionals working to limit what they have to pay – from the claims representative, to lawyers, surveillance and social media investigators; to medical experts, vocational counselors etc. These people are NOT hired and paid so much money to find the “truth”; their job is to save the insurance company money. An injured worker does not know or understand all of the complex laws, rules and proper procedures. One mistake could mean they end up losing EVERYTHING.
Even when the claimant does get a lawyer – the choice of WHO they hire is significant. Some lawyers just want to get a quick fee. Others may ‘dabble’ in workers’ compensation; but not handle these complicated cases day in and day out. In other situations, a client may direct their lawyer to move the case too quickly – which can also jeopardize the claimant’s entire weekly check – and all future benefits, because too many corners were cut and shortcuts taken. Most insurance companies keep detailed records on the lawyers; which ones fight cases, which ones know the law, and which ones they can take advantage of. YOU NEED THE RIGHT LAWYER. The deduction of benefits to pay the right lawyer’s fee can mean the difference between having any benefits at all; getting a full and fair settlement – or losing everything.
Bottom line, at SKR we understand your circumstances. We will do everything we can to move your case quickly – while not cutting corners that could cause even bigger problems down the road. We will protect your benefits, and maximize the end result.
Are injuries working at home covered by workers compensation?
The Covid-19 pandemic has changed everyone’s lives – and the workers’ compensation system is no exception. Since the closure of Hearing rooms due to the Coronavirus, most court hearings and witness depositions are done by video, and the process has become so efficient that many Judges, or even the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation may make some of the procedural changes ‘permanent’. But what about the large workforce now working remotely? Many employers are finding it unnecessary to pay rent and other expenses related to working ‘in the office’, when the cost of a remote work force is far less. Many types of businesses may make some of the changes to their operations permanent as well. But what happens when an employee is injured while working at home, or in their car, or the local coffee shop?
The Workers’ Compensation Act applies to all injuries suffered ‘in the course of employment and related thereto’, often referred to as the course and scope of employment. While it is easier to identify an injury being in the course and scope of employment when it happens on the employer’s premises, the law has long applied to injuries suffered elsewhere. Interstate truck drivers, delivery workers, Home Health Care workers and injuries while commuting from one place of business to another are covered, so long as the incident occurred ‘in the course of employment and related thereto’. There is even a whole set of rules for injuries suffered during a break, called “The Personal Comfort Doctrine”.
The same rules and analysis of the facts of each case will apply to at-home or remote workers. Judges will evaluate the facts and circumstances of each case, to determine whether there is a close enough relationship to work duties, rather than solely personal activities. Did a lifting injury occur while re-loading your at-home copy machine or moving your computer to a quieter work space; or by lifting your child to change a diaper or address their scraped knee? Did you burn your finger changing a light bulb in your home office; or by making supper for the family? Did you slip and fall over your kids’ toys or school books while cleaning; or did you trip over the family dog while rushing to the bathroom during a short break between work related phone calls?
Every fact of every individual, unique case can mean the difference between a work injury, fitting the Personal Comfort Doctrine, or being solely personal. The insurance company may tell you it’s not covered – but that may just be to save money. Call the Certified Workers’ Compensation Specialist lawyers at SKR to find out your actual rights.