Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court Holds That Truck Driver Involved In Motor Vehicle Accident May Not Collect Workers’ Compensation Benefits In Pennsylvania For New Jersey Motor Vehicle Accident.

Posted on Friday, September 18th, 2015 at 5:18 pm    

Under the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act, an employee who sustains a work-related injury in Pennsylvania is always entitled to pursue workers’ compensation benefits in Pennsylvania, whether that individual resides out-of-state or actually lives in Pennsylvania. However, we are often asked to consult with truck drivers, both union and non-union, who live in Pennsylvania but have sustained serious physical injuries as a result of work-related truck accidents that occurred in other states. The question that arises is whether or not we are able to pursue a Pennsylvania workers’ compensation claim for the injured truck drivers.

The Truck Driver Worked For An Alabama Company But Was Injured In New Jersey

In Watt v. Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board (Boyd Brothers Transportation), the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court addressed the injured worker’s claim for workers’ compensation benefits arising out of a motor vehicle accident that occurred while the injured worker was driving a company truck in New Jersey. The facts of the case were relatively straightforward. The injured worker was an interstate truck driver who lived in Pennsylvania but was employed by a company based in Alabama. The claimant had completed an online application for employment and then attended an orientation in Ohio after being notified that he had been hired as a truck driver by the company. The worker had also signed an agreement that claims for on-the-job injuries shall be governed by the laws of the state of Alabama.

The Injured Worker Spent More Time Driving In Pennsylvania Than In Any Other State

The injured truck driver kept a daily log as required by U.S. Department of Transportation regulations. The log reflected that at the time of his motor vehicle accident in New Jersey he had spent 678.25 hours driving a truck for the employer, and that 128 hours were spent driving in Pennsylvania, which was more than any other state. Of the 35,924 miles he had driven, 6,196 had been spent driving in Pennsylvania, which again was more than any other state. The employer’s witness testified to slightly different numbers which reflected that the injured driver drove the most miles in Virginia, with Ohio and Pennsylvania coming in second and third, respectively. The workers’ compensation just accepted claimant’s testimony regarding the miles and hours spent in Pennsylvania, but nonetheless denied the claim petition on the basis that there was no jurisdiction under the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act. The Appeal Board affirmed the decision, and the worker appealed to the Commonwealth Court.

A Truck Driver Whose Employment Is “Principally Localized” In Pennsylvania May Receive Benefits Even Though Injured Out-of-State

The Commonwealth Court noted that Section 305.2(a)(1) provides that an employee who sustains a work-related injury outside of Pennsylvania shall be entitled to benefits in Pennsylvania provided that at the time of his injury his employment is principally localized in Pennsylvania. The Act further provides that a worker’s employment is “principally localized” in Pennsylvania when his employer has a place of business in Pennsylvania and the worker regularly works at or from such place of business; or, having worked at or from such place of business the worker’s job duties have required him to go outside of the state for less than one year; or, if the first two clauses are not applicable, he lives in Pennsylvania and spends a substantial amount of his working time in the service of the employer in Pennsylvania.

For Employment To Be “Principally Localized” In Pennsylvania A Substantial Amount Of Time Must Be Spent There

In determining whether a truck driver’s employment is “principally localized” in Pennsylvania, the worker must show that he worked from Pennsylvania as a rule, not as the exception. In the case before the court, the worker agreed that he could not establish that the employer had a place of business in Pennsylvania from which he worked, and so the only inquiry was whether the claimant could establish that he lived in Pennsylvania and spent a substantial amount of his working time in Pennsylvania. In that regard, the court held that although the truck driver may have spent more time and driven more miles in Pennsylvania than in any other state, he did not spent a “substantial part of his working time” in Pennsylvania because he only spent a small percentage more of his time in Pennsylvania than in some other states. Thus, the injured truck driver was not allowed to pursue workers’ compensation benefits in Pennsylvania arising out of his motor vehicle accident because of jurisdictional issues.

The court also noted that the agreement that the worker signed conferring jurisdiction in Alabama was enforceable in this matter, but would not be had the injured worker been injured in Pennsylvania.

Interstate Truck Driver Accident Cases Are Fact-Specific And It Is Important To Retain A Lawyer Immediately

This case highlights the fact-specific nature of the inquiry into whether a truck driver or other employee crossing state lines in the course of performing his/her job is entitled to workers’ compensation benefits in Pennsylvania when injured in another state. It is important to remember that you are always entitled to workers’ compensation benefits in Pennsylvania for work-related injuries occurring here. For cases involving out-of-state injuries, it is best to consult with a lawyer immediately to determine where jurisdiction is appropriate rather than allowing the insurance company to decide under which state’s laws they will pay.

If you or a loved one have been injured in work-related motor vehicle accident, contact one of the experienced attorneys at Zavodnick, Zavodnick & Lasky, LLC or call (215) 875-7030.

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