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Court orders employer to pay burial costs from workplace injuries

Pennsylvania workers work every day to earn profits for their employer. They put their own lives at risk. Therefore, it seems only reasonable for their employer to take care of any medical expenses, lost wages and other financial needs these workers may need, if they were injured at work.

Sometimes, employers question whether they should still pay workers' compensation to these worker or their family members. This is especially true if the accident arose from an action on the worker's part that was in the interest of the employer, but may not have been strictly within their responsibilities.

A recent decision by the Commonwealth Court in Pennsylvania illustrates this point. In this case, a gas station employee suffered traumatic injuries, while seeking to apprehend a would-be thief. The thief, in his attempt to escape, struck the employee with his car and ran over him. The employee succumbed to his injuries several months later.

The employee in this case was the night shift manager of the station, and he believed that part of his duties included ensuring the safety of the station itself and all other employees. Although he was not a licensed law enforcement officer, his employer knew and allowed his practice of carrying a gun on the premises. He had also previously defended the station and its employees in a robbery attempt.

The Workers' Compensation Board agreed that the employer was liable for lost wages suffered by the deceased worker, but not for his death, since that had occurred when he tried to chase and stop the thief. Such vigilantism could not be said to have occurred within the ambit of his work. However, the court overturned this decision, and held that the employer should pay for the deceased worker's funeral and burial expenses.

Workers' compensation law is complex. Given the complexities that may arise, any injured worker or his or her family members may choose to consult with an experienced lawyer in order to make their claim for compensation more persuasive.

Source: The Pennsylvania Record, "Court: business should pay funeral expenses for employee critically injured while chasing thief," Jim Boyle, May 28, 2014

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