Free Consultation

Our reputation is our greatest asset.
We guard it with your satisfaction.

A Guide to Workers’ Compensation for Remote Workers in Pennsylvania

Remote Work Has Become the New Norm, but What if You Get Injured in Your Home Office? This Guide Examines How Pennsylvania’s Workers’ Compensation Applies to Remote Workers.

A Guide to Workers' Compensation for Remote Workers in PennsylvaniaWorking remotely was an occasional thing for some employees—when mass transit broke down or similar, not-too-often obstacles occurred. But the arrival of COVID-19 in 2020 drastically changed many employers’ remote work policies. Working remotely became the norm rather than the exception. This is changing somewhat. But working from home is occurring much more often now than pre-COVID.

Automatically, the question arises: will injuries that occur while working from home be covered by workers’ compensation insurance? Pennsylvania law states that injuries sustained outside of the employer’s premises are covered, but only if the employee “is actually engaged in the furtherance of the business or affairs of the employer.” (Section 301 (c) of the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act, 77 P.S. §411(1).

An example of a case where benefits were awarded to a worker utilizing a home office occurred in Verizon Pennsylvania, Inc. v. WCAB (Alston). In this instance, a worker went to her kitchen to get a glass of juice. While there, she got a call from her boss. While on the phone, she went down the stairs to her home office. On the stairs she fell and injured her neck.

To avoid ambiguities, employers need to give a detailed description of an employee’s job. They need to specify the work times, break times, equipment, work area. It’s wise to provide reminders about safety, like using smoke detectors, having fire extinguishers handy, using power surge outlets, setting up ergonomic workspaces with adequate lighting, and minimizing the use of extension cords.

Guidelines For Home-Based Work Compared to In-Office Work

When employees work from home, different rules can apply for workers’ compensation compared to working in a regular workplace. Here are some important points to know:

  • Work-Related Injuries: For an injury to be covered by workers’ compensation, it must be related to your job duties and happen while you are working.
  • Designated Workspace: You should have a specific area at home where you work. This helps separate work activities from personal activities, making it easier to determine if an injury is work-related.
  • Employer Policies: Your employer might have special rules for working from home. These rules usually explain what the employer and employee need to do about setting up the workspace, staying safe, and reporting injuries.
  • Documentation and Reporting: If you get hurt while working from home, report it right away and keep detailed records. Follow your employer’s instructions for reporting injuries.
  • Insurance Coverage: Workers’ compensation insurance should cover you while you work from home, but the details can vary depending on your employer’s insurance policy.
  • Jurisdictional Variations: Workers’ compensation laws can be different depending on your state or country. It’s important to know the specific laws that apply to you.
  • Ergonomic Considerations: Employers might give advice or resources to help you set up your home workspace in a way that prevents injuries from things like poor posture or repetitive movements.
  • Employer Liability: Your employer can be responsible for injuries that happen while you are working from home, as long as the injury is related to your work and happens in your designated workspace during work hours.

Pennsylvania’s Criteria for Work-Related Injuries

During work duties, the injury must occur while performing tasks assigned by your employer or activities benefiting them. It should be caused by something related to your job, establishing a clear link between your work and the injury. Additionally, the injury must take place during work hours and at your workplace or any other location where you perform your job duties, and you must be an employee at the time of the incident. Medical evidence, including doctors’ assessments and medical records, should demonstrate the injury’s relation to your job. Statements from coworkers or witnesses, if possible, along with written documents such as accident reports or job logs, can further substantiate your claim. These criteria are vital in determining if an injury is job-related under Pennsylvania law, emphasizing the importance of thorough documentation and evidence to support your claim.

Frequent Injuries Encountered While Working Remotely

Working from home can lead to several common injuries that employees should be aware of. One of the most frequent issues is repetitive strain injuries (RSIs), which occur from performing the same motion repeatedly, such as typing or using a mouse extensively. Examples of RSIs include carpal tunnel syndrome and tendonitis. Another common problem is back and neck pain, often resulting from poor posture, inadequate seating, or an improperly set-up desk. Sitting for long periods without proper ergonomic support can cause chronic discomfort in these areas.

Slips, trips, and falls are also potential hazards when working from home, just as they are in a traditional office. These accidents can happen due to clutter, loose rugs, or wet floors. Eye strain is another issue, caused by spending long hours staring at a computer screen. This can lead to headaches, blurred vision, and overall discomfort, often referred to as computer vision syndrome.

PA Workers’ Compensation Explained

Workers’ compensation insurance is a type of insurance that provides financial and medical benefits to employees who suffer work-related injuries or illnesses. It covers medical expenses, rehabilitation costs, and lost wages due to injury or illness sustained on the job. In exchange, employees typically forfeit the right to sue their employer for negligence. This insurance is mandatory in most jurisdictions and is designed to protect both employees and employers by ensuring injured workers receive necessary care while limiting employers’ liability.

Important Reminders About Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation

Does PA Workers' Compensation Cover Remote Workers?These are the most important rules and regulations in Pennsylvania for this type of insurance:

  • Reporting the Injury: You must tell your employer about your injury within 120 days of when it happened. Reporting it quickly helps make sure your claim gets processed smoothly.
  • Filing a Claim: You have up to three years from the date of your injury to file a workers’ compensation claim. This step is necessary to start getting your benefits.
  • Medical Treatment: For the first 90 days, you need to see doctors from a list approved by your employer. After 90 days, you can choose your own doctor.
  • Waiting Period: There’s a seven-day waiting period before you start getting wage loss benefits. If you’re unable to work for more than 14 days, you’ll get paid for the first seven days retroactively.
  • Wage Loss Benefits: These benefits are usually two-thirds of your average weekly wage, but there are minimum and maximum limits set by the state.
  • Dispute Resolution: If there’s a disagreement about your claim, it can be resolved through mediation, a hearing with a workers’ compensation judge, or an appeal to the Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board.
  • Employer Retaliation: It’s illegal for your employer to retaliate against you for filing a workers’ compensation claim. You can take legal action if you face discrimination or retaliation.
  • Return to Work: If you can go back to work, you might return with some restrictions or modifications. Employers should try to accommodate these restrictions.

Knowing these important rules and regulations helps ensure that both you and your employer handle the workers’ compensation process correctly and fairly in Pennsylvania.

Take Action After a Work-From-Home Injury in PA

If you get hurt while working from home, here’s what you should do:

  • Get help fast. Take care of yourself first. If you’re injured, see a doctor or go to the hospital if needed. Let your boss know about the injury as soon as possible. They need to know what happened. Also, keep track of when and how you got hurt. This will be important later on. Be sure to follow your company’s rules for reporting injuries. You might have to fill out a form or talk to someone specific.
  • Follow the advice of your doctor. Take any medicine they give you and go to any follow-up appointments. Save any papers from the doctor or bills you get. You’ll need them if you want to get paid back for medical costs. Talk to a lawyer. If things get complicated, you might want to talk to a lawyer who knows about work injuries. Keep your boss updated on how you’re doing and if you need time off. It’s important to stay connected.

Following these steps can help you handle a work injury while working from home.

The Hurdles of Work-From-Home Injury Claims

Obtaining compensation after being injured while working remotely from home comes with unique challenges. First, it can be difficult to pinpoint exactly when the injury occurred since the boundaries between work and personal time are less defined. Additionally, establishing a direct link between the injury and work-related tasks can be challenging, requiring clear evidence of the injury’s connection to job responsibilities. Determining employer liability is also complex, as questions arise regarding their responsibility for providing a safe work environment in a home setting.

Privacy concerns may arise when reporting injuries, as employees may feel uncomfortable sharing personal information or allowing access to their homes. Accessing support services, such as medical care and assistance, may be more limited for remote workers compared to those in traditional workplaces. Understanding workers’ compensation laws and navigating eligibility for compensation can also be daunting, particularly when injuries occur outside of the typical workplace setting. Overcoming these challenges requires effective communication with employers, ensuring a safe home workspace, and understanding legal rights regarding remote work injuries.

A Case Study: When Evidence Makes the Difference in a Work-From-Home Injury Claim

Navigate The Hurdles of Work-From-Home Injury Claims in Bensalem, PennsylvaniaThis case illustrates that you will need proof that you were injured while working for your employer, not during a break. Unlike the example given in the introduction, above, where the worker fell down the stairs while talking on the phone to her boss, in this case the judge ruled against the claimant, a widow whose husband died while sitting in his home office. Based on the widow’s testimony, that she didn’t actually see the worker, her husband, between 11:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. and the injury could have happened at any time between those two hours; that the deceased’s eyeglasses and spots of his blood were found outside the house, where he habitually took a cigarette break; and that even though the deceased worker sent seven business emails earlier in the day, he also used his business email account to send a personal message, the judge ruled that there was no evidence to prove the deceased had been working while injured. He denied the widow’s claim.

Contact Northeast Philadelphia Workers’ Compensation Attorneys for Help Filing a Claim for Injuries While Working Remotely in Pennsylvania

When dealing with a workers’ compensation claim in Pennsylvania, having an attorney by your side can make a significant difference. The attorneys at Cohen & Riechelson bring several advantages to the table. Firstly, we understand all the ins and outs of the legal system so we can ensure you’re following the rules and receiving the benefits you’re entitled to. Secondly, we can evaluate your case objectively and give you an honest assessment of its strength, helping you understand what benefits you might receive. Thirdly, our attorneys assist in gathering evidence to support your claim. This includes medical records and witness statements, which are crucial for proving your case.

Overall, having a skilled PA workers’ compensation lawyer at our firm can greatly improve your chances of success in obtaining the compensation you need after a work from home injury in towns like Fairless Hills, Langhorne, Doylestown, Bristol, Warminster, Yardley, Levittown, and throughout Northeast Philadelphia & Lower Bucks County. Call Cohen & Riechelson today for a free evaluation of your case at (215) 337-4915. We’ll ensure you’re treated fairly throughout the process. We’ll protect your rights and keep you informed every step of the way.

Free Case Evaluation for Pennsylvania Injury Victims

With looming medical bills and the uphill battle of recovery ahead, we do not burden you with yet another financial responsibility during this trying time. We abide by a contingency model, which essentially means that until you receive compensation, we work for you for free. With centrally-located offices in Bensalem, our skilled legal professionals have been serving clients throughout Bucks County and Northeast Philadelphia for over 40 years. We are committed to providing unparalleled advocacy, advisement, and assistance to our clients while confronting those who would seek to deter you as aggressive, unwavering champions of your interests. Contact our Bensalem offices today to request your free, confidential consultation.