Collapsed Bridge in Pennsylvania Reveals Workers Comp Challenges

On June 18, part of a 103-year-old bridge being rebuilt in Pennsylvania collapsed, injuring three workers—one in an excavator and two walking along the bridge. Paul Roman, president of Francis J. Palo Inc., the contractor on the project, said that the injured did not work for the company, but were rather employees of a subcontractor.

Requirements of Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act

This unfortunate accident highlights the dilemma that many construction workers face. The Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act requires all Pennsylvania employers to insure their workers’ compensation liability with the State Workers’ Insurance Fund, a private insurance carrier, or by qualifying as a self-insured entity. However, specific exceptions exist in the law. These exceptions (for having to cover certain workers) exist for home workers, licensed real estate salespeople, domestic workers, and certain agricultural workers. Although independent contractors are not considered “employees,” the law itself not does not explicitly exempt coverage for contractors. However, local court decisions have, in some instances, developed an exception to the requirement for coverage for independent contractors.

Did An Employment Relationship Exist?

If an, independent contractor, who is not technically classified as an employee, is injured on the job, and brings a case against the company they were working for when injured, a judge will typically first look to see whether an employment relationship existed. The court will typically consider the following factors in analyzing the relationship:

  • Control of the manner in which the work is to be done;
  • Whether the alleged employer can terminate the employment at any time;
  • Responsibility for the result;
  • Terms of agreement between the parties;
  • Nature of the work;
  • Skilled required for the work;
  • Whether the alleged employee or employer are engaged in a distinct occupations or businesses;
  • Who supplies the tools; and
  • Whether the alleged employee is paid based on the time spent or job itself.

Unfortunately, in many cases, it has been found that small contractors generally do not have workers’ compensation coverage. Regardless of what the alleged employer/employee thought, the primary factors (for the courts) appear to be who has the right to direction and control of the worker. Thus, if you are a construction worker, and you have been injured while on the job, it is advisable that you consult an experienced personal injury attorney to make sure that your medical expenses will be covered.

Injury or Death on the Job

Construction workers are faced with one of the highest injury and mortality rates of any industry. They face life-threatening injuries from falls, electrocution, defective tools, and other disasters. Sometimes they survive, and sometimes, they die from these injuries.

The Pennsylvania construction accident lawyers at Solnick & Associates represent victims of construction accidents across Pennsylvania. Contact us today for a free consultation so that we can help you build your case.