Is a ‘good Samaritan’ eligible for workers’ compensation in Pennsylvania?

The Pennsylvania high court will rule on if a worker injured while trying to help another worker in an emergency should be eligible for workers’ compensation.

When a worker at a sanitation plant in Pennsylvania fell, a co-worker rushed to help. According to The Legal Intelligencer, the man who sought to provide aid suffered injuries to his head, lungs, back, ribs and elsewhere during the event, which left the initial fallen worker dead.

The "good Samaritan" sought workers' compensation benefits as his injuries occurred while he was at work, where he installs pipelines. A judge and then worker's compensation panel upheld his right to those benefits, though the employer and the insurance company have appealed that decision. The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania will now hear the case.

The emergency

The man was installing pipeline at the sanitation plant with three other people when one person fell into a concrete pit. Three of the plant's employees, including the man, went into the pit using a ladder and found that the worker who fell had died. When the man tried to ascend the ladder, he lost consciousness and fell back into the pit, causing his injuries.

The lawsuit states that the pit contained methane gases. However, the man had not been warned of any danger. His initial claim for compensation was denied, though the Workers' Compensation Appeal Board and a judge overturned the employer's decision.

The appeal

Continental Western Insurance Co. and Pipeline Systems Inc. filed the appeal in the hopes of overturning the decision regarding compensation. The initial ruling claimed that the injured employee had satisfied the requirements for serving his duties when the emergency happened, thus leaving him eligible for benefits.

However, the appeal claims that the law is not applicable in this case. The worker, the appeal states, who is not a trained medical professional, left his scope of employment to try to help.

What the law says

In 2003, the Pennsylvania law regarding workers' compensation was amended to include a clause referring specifically to incidents such as this case. The new clause states that if an employee incurs an injury or dies while rendering aid in the event of an emergency, he or she is entitled to benefits. The law does state that the worker must have been acting in the course of his or her employment when the emergency occurs.

The outcome of this ruling could set precedent for future good Samaritans down the road. Workers' compensation benefits are a necessary part of ensuring that people who suffer on-the-job injuries receive the funds necessary to get back on their feet. Anyone who has questions about matters such as these should speak to a workers' compensation attorney in Pennsylvania.