Senate Approves Bartolotta Bill Addressing Workers Compensation and Third-Party Lawsuits

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HARRISBURG – The Senate passed legislation sponsored by Senator Camera Bartolotta (R-46) clarifying that employers may recoup medical expenses paid to an employee for a workplace injury when a settlement or award of damages is obtained against a third party for the same injury.

When an employee’s workplace injury results from an act or omission of a third party, such as a manufacturer of faulty equipment, the employee may file a civil suit against that third party. In the interim, the employer remains responsible for wage loss benefits and medical expenses under a traditional workers’ compensation claim.

If the employee is successful in the third-party suit, his or her employer is able to recover benefits paid and future wage loss benefits under the premise that the employee should not be compensated twice for the same injury. Senate Bill 319 would clarify that future medical expenses would also be subject to employer recovery where there is a third-party settlement. This had been the law prior to a 2018 Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision.

“While it is unfortunate that an employee would ever be injured on the job, employers should not be penalized by having to pay for future medical costs after the third party is found to be responsible for the accident. The fair solution is for the injured party to be compensated by the responsible party – not by another party without any culpability,” Bartolotta said.

The responsibility for attorneys’ fees incurred in obtaining the recovery would continue to be shared by the employer and employee as provided for in current law.

In the event that the proceeds of a third-party settlement are depleted, the employer or insurer would resume paying the full amount of the employee’s workers’ compensation wage loss and medical costs.

The bill would bring Pennsylvania back in line with how nearly every other state handles this workers’ compensation issue.

Senate Bill 319 now heads to the House of Representatives for consideration.

CONTACT: Eric Kratz, 717-787-1463