Receiving workers' compensation for a workplace injury in Pennsylvania may sometimes seem like a long and arduous journey. Many people see the legal process as complicated and full of pitfalls that appear to be in place solely to derail workers' compensation claims. Nevertheless, individuals suffer debilitating workplace injuries every day, and by law workers have a right to file for and receive benefits for their documented injury.
The claim of a widow who filed for benefits after her husband's death in 2004 was recently upheld by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. The woman's firefighter husband died from liver disease caused by hepatitis C. He had been employed by the city of Philadelphia, which opposed the widow's claim for workers' compensation death benefits. The city relied on the testimony of one doctor, who claimed that the fireman's military medical records evidenced that he contracted hepatitis B in 1969 as the result of drug use. The doctor also alleged that the fireman contracted hepatitis C from drug use.
However, the High Court judged the doctor's testimony as speculative, citing a note in a medical chart from many years ago. The court cited the fact that the note was uncorroborated and that the Pennsylvania Workers' Compensation Act allows benefits for "occupational disease." The Pennsylvania Supreme Court also found that hepatitis C was a potential hazard for any fireman due to exposure to blood and bodily fluids on the job. As a result, the court directed the payment of benefits to the widow.
While the woman will at long last receive the money due her, the case also underscores important facts. Those injured in the workplace are entitled to benefits and compensation for pain and lost work time. Because the law and procedure concerning workers' compensation claims can appear confusing to those seeking benefits, one solid option is seeking experienced legal consultation to help navigate a complex legal system, as all injured workers deserve their compensation.
Source: philly.com, "Pa. high court sides with widow in hepatitis case," Robert Moran, Oct. 20, 2011