Although workplace injuries can have a significant impact on the spouse of an injured worker, the availability of compensation depends on the facts of the case. Take, for example, a recent case involving a Pennsylvania stone container company sued for negligence in connection with a workplace injury. The wife of the yard jockey who suffered the injury claimed in her suit that the company failed to maintain a safe work environment, and specifically that the company failed to keep the premises cleared of snow and ice. Slick conditions, in this case, caused the employee to slip and injure his shoulder while performing a task.
The judge ultimately sided with the company in this case based on the finding that the worker continued to put himself in a situation involving and obvious and known danger, and therefore assumed any risk of injury. The decision was based on the doctrine of assumption of risk, under which an employer is liable for injuries only when there is a known or reasonably discoverable unreasonable risk of harm against which those on the property would fail to discover or protect themselves.
In this case, the condition was deemed to be one from which the worker should have taken care to protect himself. Therefore, although the worker in this case most likely received workers’ compensation, his wife was unable to pursue her claim for damages she suffered as a result of the workplace injury.
It is worth pointing out that workers themselves are unable to pursue their employers for tort liability based on a workplace injury except in very limited circumstances. In our next post, we’ll take a further look at the exclusive remedy rule of workers’ compensation here in Pennsylvania, and what injured workers need to know to ensure they receive the compensation to which they are entitled.