Pittsburgh Workplace Injury Attorneys
If you suffer an injury while on the job, it can turn your whole life upside down. You may not be able to return to work while you undergo treatment, and you and your family may worry about your financial future.
The Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act requires your employer to provide you with insurance coverage meant to cover your expenses after a workplace injury or in the event you are diagnosed with an occupational disease. But taking all the steps necessary to receive your full benefits, unfortunately, can be complicated and overwhelming, particularly when you’re dealing with health issues at the same time.
The Pittsburgh workplace injury lawyers at Chaffin Luhana have decades of experience dealing with worker injury cases and can help make sure you get the compensation you deserve. Give our experienced Pittsburgh workers’ compensation attorneys a call today to schedule a complimentary consultation at 1-888-480-1123.
Workplace Injuries and Fatalities in Pennsylvania
In 2019, there were 154 fatal work injuries in Pennsylvania, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. In 2020, the total was 148—less than the year before, but still an unacceptable number.
Here’s a further breakdown of the fatalities in 2019 and 2020:
|Type of Injury||2019||2020|
|Contact with objects and equipment||32||27|
|Exposure to harmful substances and environments||22||25|
|Violence and injuries by persons and animals||21||15|
|Falls, slips, trips||24||28|
The private construction industry and private transportation and warehousing industry had the highest number of fatalities. Workers 55 and older accounted for 42 percent of the state’s work-related fatalities in 2019, compared to 38 percent of fatalities nationwide.
Types of Workplace Accidents in Pittsburgh
Although there are a wide variety of injuries and illnesses that may occur because of your work, below are some of the most common:
Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBIs)
This is a sudden injury that causes damage to the brain. Symptoms can be mild, moderate, or severe. Concussions are a type of TBI, while a more serious injury can lead to physical and psychological symptoms, coma, and even death.
In a 2019 study on workplace-related TBIs, researchers found that about 80 percent of them were preventable. Nearly 25 percent of workers reported that they didn’t receive job training, and nearly 50 percent said they didn’t receive safety training. Less than half were supervised.
Spinal Cord Injuries
A spinal cord injury typically stems from a sudden, traumatic blow to the spine that dislocates, fractures, compresses, or crushes the vertebrae, ligaments, or discs of the spinal column. Bleeding, swelling, inflammation, and fluid accumulation in and around the spinal cord can create additional damage.
These injuries can cause paralysis, loss of bowel or bladder control, changes in sexual function, pain and suffering, difficulty breathing, and more. In a 2018 study on workplace spinal injuries, researchers found that falls led to 50 percent of the injuries, predominantly falls from building/structures, ladders, or between levels. Falls occurred most commonly in the construction industry (78 percent).
Severe Crushing Injuries
A workplace crushing injury typically occurs when all or part of a worker’s body is caught between two large pieces of machinery. A worker hit by a forklift, for instance, may suffer from a crushed arm or leg.
These injuries can lead to permanent loss of use of a limb, amputations, or even death. In a 2017 study, researchers noted that a crushing injury “is one of the most severe and traumatic injuries an employee can sustain in the workplace.” They added that the injury not only has a direct effect on the individual’s immediate health but also potentially on their future employment and long-term earnings.
If a worker falls from a ladder, slips and falls, or suffers a crushing injury, he or she may end up with one or more broken bones. Delivery drivers and transportation workers who get into accidents may also suffer these injuries, as might those working with certain types of heavy or fast-moving machinery.
Sometimes the bone breaks in just one place, but other times it may break in multiple locations, or it may shatter. Most of these injuries can be treated, but they can keep workers away from their jobs for an extended period.
Paraplegia and Quadriplegia
Paraplegia occurs when the worker is paralyzed from the waist down. Quadriplegia refers to paralysis of the entire body from the neck down. These injuries are usually caused by brain, neck, or spinal cord trauma, and they can cause lasting damage to the worker and his or her family. They also affect the worker’s ability to return to their job or get a job in the future.
Back and Neck Injuries
These types of injuries may result from sudden trauma or cumulative stress. Strained muscles, compressed nerves, worn joints, injured ligaments, and more can cause lasting pain, headaches, and other symptoms requiring treatment and sometimes surgery.
Common types of back and neck injuries include whiplash, herniated discs, nerve damage, and spinal cord injuries, which can lead to a loss of movement or difficulty moving, tingling and numbness, balance problems, and more.
Internal Bleeding and Organ Damage
Some workplace accidents can cause internal organ damage and bleeding. A trauma or collision may damage blood vessels inside the body, leading to hemorrhaging and potentially causing serious complications.
Common workplace incidences that may lead to this type of injury include falls, being caught between machinery or large objects, being struck by heavy equipment, motor vehicle accidents (cars, trucks, forklifts), and violent assaults.
Open flames, hot objects, explosions, chemicals, electric current, and even sun exposure can cause workers to suffer from serious burns. These range in severity from first-degree, in which there is minimal damage to the surface level of the skin, to fourth-degree, in which all skin layers are affected and there is potential damage to the muscle, tendons, and bone.
Workplace burn injuries are often caused by electrical currents, when electricity flows through the body, or when the skin comes into contact with overheated electrical equipment. Chemical burns are also a concern.
Electrocutions and Electric Shock
Electrical accidents sometimes occur because of faulty equipment, but more often, the cause is inadequate training or supervision. The Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI) states there were 126 electrical fatalities in 2020 in the U.S., with the mining industry having the highest rate of fatal electrical injuries, followed by the construction industry.
These injuries may be caused by direct exposure to electricity, such as touching a live wire, or via indirect exposure, such as coming into contact with something unintentionally conducting electricity.
Illnesses from Exposure to Substances
According to the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA), chemical hazards and toxic substances “pose a wide range of health hazards,” including carcinogenicity. Employers are responsible for reducing workers’ exposure to toxins and must provide employees with respiratory protection where needed.
In a 2020 study, researchers noted that while improvements have been made, occupational exposure to chemical and biological agents “is still causing excessive disease in workforces worldwide.”
Cuts and Lacerations
These are common workplace injuries, with the majority occurring to the hands and fingers. They can range from minor abrasions to serious and even life-threatening puncture wounds, deep lacerations, or amputation injuries.
Poor lighting, debris, and clutter can increase the risk of these injuries, as can machinery that’s missing its safety guards. Working too fast or failing to wear protective equipment can also lead to cuts and lacerations.
Repetitive Motion Injuries (RMIs)
When you have to perform the same types of movements over and over again, day after day, they can cause repetitive motion injuries, also called repetitive strain injuries. They’re caused by an extended buildup of damage to the muscles, tendons, and nerves, typically because the worker lacks appropriate ergonomic equipment, or is required to perform movements that repeatedly strain these areas.
RMIs may not be immediately serious, but they can take a long time to heal and may affect an injured worker’s life for many years. Treatments often require extended time off of work, physical therapy, medications, injections, and even surgery. The injuries may eventually prevent the worker from being able to do their job.
Common RMIs include tendon-related disorders and peripheral nerve entrapment disorders (like carpal tunnel syndrome).
Strains from Overexertion
Overexertion is a frequent cause of workplace injuries—even more frequent than RMIs. They can occur when employees use excessive physical effort to do a job, such as lifting, pulling, pushing, turning, wielding, holding, carrying, or throwing in a way that overtaxes their muscles and joints.
The resulting injuries may include tendon tears, joint dislocations, inflamed connective tissues, sprains, strains, back pain, and more.
These types of injuries can also occur when workers become fatigued and overestimate their ability to perform a physical task. The majority of these injuries occur to the back, causing low back pain. Workers may also overexert when performing jobs in which they were not properly trained.
In 2018, work-related amputations resulted in 6,200 cases with days away from work, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). That year, over half (58 percent) of the cases involved some type of machinery.
These are some of the most serious and debilitating work injuries. They occur most often when workers operate unguarded or inadequately safeguarded machinery, including power presses, conveyors, rollbending machines, food slicers, drill presses, and more.
Employers are responsible for identifying, managing, and controlling amputation hazards commonly found in the workplace.
Vision and Hearing Damage
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that hearing loss is among the most common work-related illnesses since workers are faced with occupational noise hazards every day. They add that almost all work-related hearing loss is permanent, and can have a profound effect on the quality of life. Hearing loss can also impact future safety at home and on the job.
Workplace injuries are also a leading cause of eye trauma, vision loss, disability, and blindness, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Every day, more than 2,000 U.S. workers receive medical treatment because of work-related eye injuries, with more than 800,000 eye injuries occurring annually. Like hearing loss, vision loss can affect a person’s ability to perform his or her job, or carry out everyday activities.
The BLS states that a worker died every 111 minutes from a work-related injury in 2020. The consequences are severe not only for the worker but for his or her family. In one recent study, researchers acknowledged this, finding that survivors suffer from serious health, social, and financial consequences, including prolonged grief and unresolved loss, physical health problems, family disruption, and behavioral effects on children.
Top Professions with Work Injuries in Pittsburgh
The BLS states that in the Pittsburgh area, falls, slips, and trips resulted in most of the workplace fatalities in 2018. Violence and other injuries by persons or animals, transportation incidents, and exposure to harmful substances or environments were also high on the list.
In 2018, the private construction industry sector had the highest number of fatalities in the Pittsburgh area.
Though nationally, transportation occupations typically suffer more deaths, construction was more deadly in the Pittsburgh area. The BLS did note that transportation and material occupations and construction and extraction occupations combined “had the highest number of workplace fatalities…” in Pittsburgh.
Those at risk included roofers and construction trade workers.
Transportation and material moving usually end up at the top of the list for workplace injuries and deaths. This was the case for the entire state of Pennsylvania in 2019. That year, transportation incidents resulted in 62 fatal work injuries, up from 53 from the year before.
The BLS stated that workers in these occupations, nationally, experienced over 184,000 injuries and illnesses in 2018 that resulted in days away from work. In 2020, transportation incidents remained the most frequent type of fatal event with 1,778 fatal injuries, accounting for 37.3 percent of all work-related fatalities.
In the Pittsburgh area, transportation workers include freight, stock, and material movers, as well as heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers. Both of these groups were in the top five occupations at risk for injuries and fatalities, just behind health care workers (see below).
These are workers that are employed by one firm, but working at the behest of another that exercises responsibility for the operations at the worksite. In 2018, contracted workers were at risk of fatal work injuries, with three deaths that year in the Pittsburgh area.
Nurses and Nursing Assistants
According to BLS 2020 data, nursing assistants suffered from the most injuries of any profession, with 96,480 recorded nationally. Licensed practical and vocational nurses were second, increasing by 58,590 cases over 2019.
The health care and social assistance sector had a total number of injury and illness cases that increased by 40.1 percent in 2020.
Other Industries and Occupations
In 2020, according to BLS data, other industries with a significant risk of workplace injuries and fatalities in Pennsylvania included the following:
- Agricultural, forestry, fishing, and hunting
- Wholesale and retail trade
- Leisure and hospitality
How to Select a Workplace Injury Attorney in Pittsburgh
If you or a loved one was injured or killed in a workplace accident, you need a lawyer with experience in workplace injury lawsuits to assist you.
Though workers’ compensation is designed to help cover your expenses, insurance companies are known to look for loopholes that allow them to minimize payouts or even deny work injury claims completely.
At Chaffin Luhana, we thoroughly investigate your case, tracking down and interviewing witnesses, gathering photo and video evidence, collecting documents and reports, and crafting a negotiating strategy that works in your favor.
We’re happy to meet with you to go over the details of what happened. We’ll give you the information you need to determine whether you’d like to work with us.
What Our Clients Have to Say About Chaffin Luhana
Below is a small sampling of the testimonials we have received from our clients:
Fuel Gel Burn Victim
“Just wanted to thank you again for giving us the opportunity to enjoy life as a family. I feel very blessed to have people like you in my life.”
– Jason P., Product Liability Injury Client
Automobile Accident Victim
“I called a couple other firms and they said they wouldn’t take [my case] because of limited tort. Chaffin Luhana did. They’re trying to help you when you’re in pain and I thought that was great. [The firm] called and let [me] know what was going on, like [I was] family.”
– Judy H., Consumer Client
Seven Figure Recovery
“Dear Eric: To a dear friend with a heart of gold. You bring much-needed ethics and dignity to the law profession. You have made a profound impact on my life.”
– Anonymous, Client
Over $1.5 Million Recovery
“As a client of this firm, I would highly recommend this firm for the experience, consideration, and quality they as a group showed.
– Anonymous, Personal Injury Client
Find more testimonials here.
Dedication to Community
Law partners Eric Chaffin and Roopal Luhana, along with their families, established The Chaffin Luhana Foundation in 2010.
A not-for-profit organization, the Foundation encourages the development of human potential and supports community empowerment through the following activities:
- Scholarships: Chaffin Luhana Foundation awards an annual scholarship to a student who helps us in the fight against distracted driving by submitting an inspiring personal essay.
- Financial gifts: The Foundation awards periodic financial gifts to institutions of higher learning to support scientific research and funds educational scholarships to students.
- Stephanie Victor Legacy Award: The Chaffin Luhana Foundation awards an annual financial gift to one deserving individual who overcame significant challenges and achieved great milestones in his or her life or career.
- Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation: Chaffin Luhana has partnered with this organization to benefit those living with spinal cord injuries and paralysis.
- Najee Harris Partnership: We have partnered with Pittsburgh Running Back, Najee Harris, and his Da’ Bigger Picture Foundation to support those in need in the Greater Pittsburgh area.
The founding partners of Chaffin Luhana have extensive experience in fighting for plaintiffs’ rights:
- Founder Eric Chaffin: Chaffin has handled a wide array of cases against various types of manufacturers, with dozens of multimillion-dollar recoveries.
- Founder Roopal Luhana: Luhana manages the firm’s mass torts division. Throughout her career, she has served on committees in MDLs involving over-the-counter consumer products and defective pharmaceuticals and medical devices.
- Partner Patrick Booth: Booth enjoys using his knowledge and experience to help his clients obtain the best results possible in their personal injury cases.
Chaffin Luhana lawyers have also been named to the prestigious “Super Lawyers” list several years in a row.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
It’s important to know that when it comes to workers’ compensation, it doesn’t matter who was at fault for the injury. Even if you think you may have been partially or wholly responsible for the accident, you are still eligible for benefits. Of course, if the accident was your employer’s fault or the fault of another employee, you are eligible for benefits as well.
In general, workers’ compensation provides four basic types of benefits:
- Medical care:Your employer’s insurance must pay for your medical treatments and therapies to help you recover from a work-related injury or illness. These include services rendered by health care providers, surgical and medical services, hospital treatment, prescription medicine and supplies, and orthopedic appliances and supplies.
- Temporary disability benefits:If your injury prevents you from returning to work for a while, your employer’s insurance will cover your lost wages.
- Permanent disability benefits: If you are unable to recover well enough from your injury to return to your old job, your employer’s insurance will provide payments to you on an ongoing basis. These amount to about two-thirds of your salary paid for the duration of the disability.
- Death benefits:If you die as a result of a workplace injury or disease, your employer’s insurance will provide payments to your spouse, children, or other dependents.
Depending on the severity of your injury, you may also be eligible for other benefits, including social security disability and unemployment. Your Pittsburgh workplace injury lawyer can help you explore all avenues of compensation.
Workers’ compensation insurance will typically pay about two-thirds of your regular income for lost wages. This benefit usually kicks in once you’ve lost at least seven days of work. If you miss less than that, you may not receive benefits for lost wages.
In addition, the insurance company will pay all your medical bills and any related treatments your doctor prescribes, including therapy and medications. Other benefits such as temporary or permanent disability are calculated on an individual basis.
If you have suffered an injury on the job or have been recently diagnosed with an occupational illness, there are certain steps you must take to be able to recover all your damages from workers’ compensation insurance.
1. Get Medical Attention
Particularly if your injury is severe, your priority will be to get medical treatment. But even if you have what you think is a minor injury, this step is important. Sometimes what seems to be a minor injury can become more serious over time, and it’s important to your claim to have medical reports.
Keep in mind that according to state law, you must go to a company-approved doctor for at least the first 90 days after the injury. Your employer should have a list of available physicians that you can choose from.
2. Report the Injury to Your Employer
This step may come first if your injury isn’t too serious. Regardless, it’s important to do this as soon as you can.
Some workers are hesitant to say anything for fear of being seen as a complainer. Yet even minor injuries can develop into more serious ones. Back, neck, knee, and arm pain can become chronic and debilitative, and repetitive injuries are known to worsen over time. If you don’t report the injury when it happens, you could hurt your ability to recover damages down the road.
Some workers also hesitate to report an injury for fear of retaliation. It is against the law, however, to retaliate against an employee for reporting an injury and/or accident. You deserve compensation so don’t hesitate to start the process.
The PA Workers’ Compensation Act gives you three weeks to complete this step. Start by telling your immediate supervisor or human resources representative about your injury, then follow up by notifying them in writing. Keep copies of everything you file.
Once you notify your employer of the injury, it’s up to them to file a workers’ compensation claim on your behalf. Still, it’s best to follow up to make sure that the claim was filed and to get a copy of it.
3. Keep Notes
It can help to gather evidence that will support your case. Take pictures of the job accident scene if you can, as well as your injuries. Keep notes of what you say when you report the injury and everything your employer does in response. If there are witnesses, get their contact information in case they are needed later on.
4. Contact Your Workplace Injury Attorney
You have the option to file a workers’ compensation claim on your own, but it’s a good idea to consult with a workplace injury attorney first. We have years of experience handling workers’ compensation claims and can help you determine which benefits you may be entitled to. The initial consultation is free, so it costs you nothing to be well informed.
Particularly if you were hurt on the job because of someone else’s negligence, it’s important to contact an attorney to be aware of all of your rights. We will launch a thorough investigation into your case to uncover every detail, including examining the workplace environment and checking if the machinery was working correctly, whether the supervisors were doing their jobs, whether you had access to the appropriate safety equipment, and more.
No matter what industry you’re in, we will take all the steps necessary to determine how much your case is worth and to get you the compensation you deserve.
5. Follow Your Doctor’s Instructions
You should keep all of your doctor’s appointments and follow your doctor’s instructions as to any therapy you may need, medications you should take, and rest periods you should follow. Don’t give the insurance company any reason to believe that you are not as injured as you say you are.
If the insurance company denies your claim, contact a workplace injury lawyer. We can help gather all the information needed to file an appeal to get the decision overturned so that you can receive the benefits you’re entitled to.
We’ll review the prior actions taken by the workers’ compensation insurance company and the insurance company doctors, gather whatever evidence is available including reports and medical records, and represent you at your workers’ compensation hearings. With us by your side, you’ll stand a much better chance of winning your appeal.
Sometimes workers who have received benefits for an extended period may suddenly receive a letter from the insurance company stating that it intends to modify, suspend, or terminate these benefits.
If you get one of these letters, it can be a frightening experience. You likely rely on these payments to live, and losing them can be devastating.
Such a letter may be sent for a variety of reasons. Your employer has the right, starting two months after you begin collecting workers' compensation benefits, to require you to undergo an Independent Medical Exam (IME). A company doctor examines you to determine whether you are well enough to return to work full-time or on a part-time, reduced-capacity basis. If so, your employer could file a petition to modify or stop your benefits.
You can try to challenge the notice yourself, but it’s always better to have an experienced workplace injury attorney on your side. The process is not a simple one. It starts with you filling out the “employee challenge” portion of the notice, but then you must gather more evidence (medical records, images, etc.), attend court hearings, and conduct depositions from your treating physicians.
Keep in mind that the insurance company has lawyers on its side. If you go up against them without your own representation, you will be at a disadvantage. Our workplace injury attorneys understand how these insurance companies work, and we can help you get around the bureaucracy to resolve your case in your favor.
Employees who were injured on the job and have received benefits for four months or longer may be eligible for a lump-sum settlement under Pennsylvania law. This type of settlement provides you with a one-time payment rather than the typical weekly payments. It cannot be more than your weekly workers’ compensation benefits multiplied by 500 weeks.
This option may be a good one for you if:
- You are tired of dealing with workers’ compensation and want to move on.
- You have stopped making progress in your recovery, and it looks like you probably won’t make any further progress.
There are potential drawbacks, however.
- Once you receive a lump-sum payment, that’s it. You can’t go back for more money.
- The insurance company is likely to offer less in a lump-sum payment than you would get if you stuck to weekly payments.
- Any future medical care you need will not be covered by your workers’ compensation benefits.
That means that taking a lump-sum payment is probably not a good idea for you if you expect that your injury may get worse or cause additional related conditions that will require medical treatment. It’s also best avoided if it looks like you will not be able to return to work for a long time.
In addition to your workers’ compensation claim, you may also have a Pittsburgh personal injury claim, depending on what happened in the accident.
Workers’ compensation in Pennsylvania bars you from filing a lawsuit against your employer, but if a third party was involved in causing your accident, you may have a case against them. Alternatively, perhaps you were injured because of faulty equipment. In that case, you may be eligible to file a personal injury lawsuit against the equipment manufacturer.
Or perhaps you were injured because of a careless contractor who doesn’t work for your company. In that case, you may be eligible to file a lawsuit against that person or the company he or she works for.
A successful personal injury claim provides you with additional compensation over and above your workers’ compensation benefits. Talk to your workplace injury attorney to see if you may qualify.