When an employee is injured on the job, the first concern is the employee’s health, and the second is undoubtedly economic security. For over 100 years, Pennsylvania’s workers have been able to seek wage replacement and medical benefits when they are injured on the job, regardless of who is at fault, in exchange for not pursuing legal action against their employers. Injured workers are also able to seek compensation from third parties who may have contributed to or caused their injuries if those third parties are found to have negligently contributed to the work injury. A recently-decided case involving a Philadelphia school bus driver provides an excellent example of how the system works.
The case stemmed from a collision between a flatbed truck and a school bus being driven by sixty-year old Yvonne Pinder. Ms. Pinder was driving her regular route when she entered an intersection and struck the truck. Testimony indicated that the truck driver and his passenger were unfamiliar with the route, and had been distracted by a GPS.
As a result of the collision, Ms. Pinder suffered injuries that required treatment at a local emergency room. She also went to a workers’ compensation medical facility the next day, and was diagnosed with multiple injuries including a concussion, post-concussion syndrome, and a neck strain and sprain that required a few months of physical therapy. She was later diagnosed with radiculopathy (a fancy name for nerve damage) arising from trauma to the nerve roots in her neck.
In addition to receiving benefits through her employer’s workers compensation insurance, Ms. Pinder pursued a negligence claim against the truck driver and his employer, Traffic Lines Inc. Her witnesses included an expert in accident reconstruction who testified about the collision, as well as an expert in internal medicine who concluded that she was permanently disabled and that she would require future nerve studies. She sought past and future lost wages based upon her previous income of $30,000 per year and the fact that she is no longer able to perform the duties that were included in her job, including lifting wheelchairs and carrying a fire extinguisher onto the bus. Ms. Pinder also sought damages for pain and suffering, which are not available in a workers’ compensation claim.
The case ended with the jury awarding her damages in the amount of $150,000, though that amount was reduced to $127,500 based upon testimony that led to the jury holding Ms. Pinder to be 15% responsible for the accident.
When a person suffers an injury on the job, workers’ compensation provides an important safety net for their medical expenses and lost wages, but an astute workers’ compensation attorney may be able to provide you with additional compensation when a third party’s negligence plays a role in your injury.