What is Workers’ Compensation?

Workers’ compensation is a no-fault insurance program mandated by Pennsylvania law and financed by employers. Coverage provides compensation and medical benefits to employees who incur work-related injuries, illnesses, and diseases. Under the PA Workers’ Compensation Act, a work “injury” is defined as “any hurtful or damaging effect which may be suffered by anyone.” Because it is a no-fault system—meaning that it does not matter whether the employer or the employee is at fault—it is an exclusive remedy. This means that, in most cases, an employee may not sue the employer in court for compensation, loss of health or other benefits or pain and suffering.

In Pennsylvania, every employer with at least one employee must purchase workers’ compensation insurance. Employers do not have to purchase coverage for certain workers, including volunteers, agricultural laborers, domestics, casual employees, executives who have elected to give up coverage, sole proprietors, federal civilian employees, railroad workers, longshoremen, and shipyard and harbor workers. Participation in workers’ compensation is not optional or voluntary: it is a criminal offense for an employer to fail to have workers’ compensation for covered employees. Criminal convictions for employers’ failing to insure are very common.

Employees injured in a work-related accident are entitled to medical treatment and wage-loss compensation, and surviving dependents of a deceased worker may be entitled to death benefits.