Workers’ Compensation Not Available to Every Injured Worker in PA

Last month, I wrote a blog entry explaining how every State, including Pennsylvania, had very different laws governing workers’ compensation systems within that State. One point I should clear up is that not every injured worker in Pennsylvania automatically qualifies for the PA workers’ compensation system. Whole occupations, or groups of workers, are subject to workers’ comp systems which vary from the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act.

For example, employees of the Federal Government must go under the Federal Employees’ Compensation Act (FECA), which is administered by the Office of Workers’ Compensation (OWCP). Railroad workers are usually subject to the Federal Employers’ Liability Act (FELA), which uses the Federal Court system for its procedure. The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (“Longshore Act”) governs employees engaged in maritime activities (though these cases sometimes have “dual jurisdiction” in PA and can proceed either through the Longshore Act or the regular Pennsylvania workers’ comp system, often depending whether the injury took place on the water or on dry land). So, not every worker who is injured in PA will be proceeding through the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act.

On the other hand, there are times when a worker who is injured in another State can still proceed under the Pennsylvania workers’ compensation system (Like the example above with the Longshore Act, this is known as “dual jurisdiction,” since there would also likely be jurisdiction in the State in which the injury took place). In this situation, we look at where the injured worker was hired, where the injured worker usually worked (and where the injured worker expected to work), and other factors, to see what options the injured worker has for which workers’ comp system to use.

As with so many areas of the law, the work injury can be a complicated process right from the start. Before a lawyer can even get into the details of the injury, and see if there is a valid workers’ comp case, the lawyer must figure out the best law to use (when there is even a choice).