Visitor Question

Auto Accident While Driving Company Car Between Appointments…

Submitted By: Anonymous (Northeast, Pennsylvania)

This past August I was rear-ended while stopped in traffic on the interstate. I was driving my company vehicle, returning to my home office after a business meeting. I was a remote sales employee, working from my home in PA for a company based in IA.

The accident caused a significant worsening of neck and lower back problems that I was treating prior to the accident. Before the accident I had moderate pain that was well controlled with medication (3 years ago I had a double discectomy w/fusion in my cervical vertebrae). The cause of my lower back problem had never been specifically identified but it was believed to be muscular.

My pain level now is very high and helped very little by medication. The cause of the increase in neck pain has been determined to be a new herniated disc in my cervical vertebrae. It’s also causing my right arm and fingers to go numb and/or feel like pins & needles.

I’ve been through months of therapy, injections, etc. and it’s likely that I’ll need surgery. Here’s where it gets a bit complicated…

I reported the claim to my employer and subsequently spoke to the Workers’ Comp claims adjuster who accepted my claim – I advised them of my pre-existing conditions. For the first 2 weeks after the accident I worked from my home office, not traveling because I was very sore and couldn’t drive more than 20-25 min at a time. My normal schedule would consist of 4-5 days on the road driving throughout the 14 states within my territory.

After taking it easy for 2 weeks I actually got worse rather than better. That’s when I decided I needed to see the doctor. A few hours after I notified the WC adjuster that I was going to the doctor I got a completely unexpected call from my boss and HR. They told me I was being let go.

I’d never been written up, put on notice or received any indication that my employment was in jeopardy for any reason. In-fact, for the past 2 years I was the top Sales person in in the company. I was told during the call that they decided to go in a different direction.

Anyhow, my doctor took me out of work due to the injury and since I was no longer employed I have no job to go back to if/when I am released to modified duty. For now, the injuries are preventing me from getting a new/similar job. The Workers’ Comp company has been paying my wage benefits and medical bills without issue.

Now that I’ve provided the details/back story, here are my main question(s)…

I made a six figure salary + sizable annual bonus each year. WC only pays 2/3 wage (with a $995 weekly cap) though, so I’m essentially getting less than 1/3 of my actual pay (and I’m likely not going to be physically capable of getting a comparable job at similar compensation for some time).

  • Being that I was 0% at fault for the accident, am I able to recover lost wages (the difference between my actual pay and what I’m receiving on WC) and/or compensation for pain & suffering from the other drivers auto carrier?
  • How/when do I do this…do I get an attorney & file a suit now or wait till my WC claim is resolved?
  • Do I need to involve the WC company/adjuster if I move forward with a suit, whether it’s now or in the future?

I’m sure the WC company will subrogate to recover their losses from the auto carrier. I believe the WC company may have already made them aware of their intent, as the auto carrier is asking me for updates on whether I’m still treating & if I’m back to work.

  • If they’re subrogating, can/should I be added to their suit?
  • Is it a good idea to tell the auto carrier that I intend to pursue reimbursement for lost wages and pain & suffering?

I’d like to resolve things without an attorney and as easy as possible, even if I get less $ than I would if I get legal representation. Any information will be appreciated. Thank you very much.

Disclaimer: Our response is not formal legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. It is generic legal information based on the very limited information provided. Do not rely upon the information in our response, or anywhere else on this site, when deciding the proper course of a legal matter. Always get a personalized case review from a local attorney.

Answer

Dear Anonymous,

In most cases, worker injuries occur at the primary location of the business. However, some injuries occur at remote job sites, or to workers who travel on behalf of their employer. Workers whose duties require them to travel are normally covered under their employers’ workers compensation insurance. However, to be covered, the worker must have been injured while performing his or her customary work duties.

Pennsylvania workers who become injured while attending business meetings will generally be entitled to workers comp benefits. However, workers injured before or after a meeting, while the worker is driving to or from their business duties are often not covered.

When talking about injuries to workers caused by persons other than fellow workers or employers, you are referring to “third party” actions. A worker injured in a car accident caused by a third party, generally has the right to pursue the third party for damages.

In the event of a recovery from a third party, the Pennsylvania Workers Compensation Act Section 3121.18 gives the workers comp insurance company a Right of Subrogation to recover benefits paid to an injured worker from a third party.

To that end, a worker who receives compensation from a third party is required to enter into a Third Party Settlement Agreement with the workers comp insurance company. By entering into the Agreement, an injured worker is required to reimburse the insurance company the amount of benefits the company paid to the worker.

However, because Pennsylvania workers compensation benefits do not include compensation for Pain and Suffering, a worker is entitled to keep that amount. The same is true for reimbursement for lost wages. Because workers comp only pays for about 2/3 of a worker’s lost wages, any amounts in excess of that may be kept by the injured worker.

Learn more about Subrogation here: Pennsylvania Revised Statutes Section 121.18

It is always a good idea to consult with a local workers’ compensation attorney, especially after a serious work injury. Fortunately, most workers comp attorneys do not charge for initial office consultations.

 

Learn more here: Car Accidents at Work

The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from a licensed attorney. Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here , or call (888) 647-2490.

Best of luck with your claim.

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