Pennsylvania state laws make sure that employers carry workers' compensation insurance to provide benefits for employees who are injured on the job. The process of filing a workers' compensation claim sounds simple enough:
- Get injured on the job.
- Seek medical treatment.
- Tell your employer about the injury.
- Collect benefits to pay medical bills and compensate you for a portion of your lost salary until you are recovered enough to return to work.
Unfortunately, things are not always as easy as they seem. The Pennsylvania workers' compensation system is full of twists, turns, nuances and instructions that must be followed precisely before benefits will be awarded.
A prime example of one of these nuances is the Pennsylvania workers' compensation provision that provides benefits for the permanent and specific loss of use or loss of a body part (i.e., amputation of an arm, leg or any part thereof; loss of an eye; blindness; deafness; or facial, neck or head disfigurement). When a worker suffers the loss of use of a body part from an accident at work, he or she may receive benefits for that loss of use in addition to workers' compensation benefits for other illnesses or injuries arising from the same incident that are separate and apart from the loss of use of a body part.
Understanding "Separate and Apart"
For instance, assume a worker's foot is crushed in a machinery accident. If he or she suffered tissue damage and broken bones and also needed to have his or her toe amputated as a result of the accident, the worker may receive several types of Pennsylvania worker's compensation benefits. First, he or she may receive coverage for medical care following the accident, including medical treatment, supplies and medicine.
Payments for Inability to Work
Second, the worker may receive payments for lost or reduced wages due to inability to work caused by the tissue damage and broken bones, without regard to the amputated toe. The worker may recover payments for lost wages while he or she is recovering and unable to work, or for the difference in wages earned if he or she is deemed partially disabled and able to work but earns lower wages post-injury. Again, these wage-loss benefits are based on injuries to the foot other than the toe amputation.
Workers Comp for Specific Loss
Finally, the worker also may receive specific loss benefits for the toe amputation. The Pennsylvania Workers' Compensation Act provides benefits for the permanent loss of use of specific body functions or parts, such as hearing loss or amputation, resulting from work injuries. It also provides benefits for the loss of use or specific loss of a body part for all practical intents and purposes if the body part is not amputated but functionally useless. If a worker suffers the loss of a body part or loss of use for all practical intents and purposes listed in the Pennsylvania Workers' Compensation Act, he or she may receive benefits for the loss of or loss of use of a body part that is separate and apart from, and in addition to, the other injuries he or she received in the work accident.
Therefore, the worker who lost wages or a toe in the above example may receive benefits for his or her foot injuries that resulted in reduced earning capacity, such as tissue damage and broken bones, and he or she also could receive additional benefits for the loss of the amputated toe, if the toe amputation is considered separate and apart from the injuries causing the disability for the wage-loss claim. Specific loss benefits for the loss of use of a body part are awarded regardless of whether the injured person is able to return to work.
If you were injured on the job and would like more information about Pennsylvania "separate and apart" workers' compensation benefits, contact an experienced workers comp lawyer in your area to learn more about your legal rights and options.