Summertime injuries to teens and workers’ comp: Tips for PA workers

Summertime jobs completed during youth often fuel stories for years to come. Jobs working as a lifeguard at a local pool, taking on landscaping projects throughout the community or working with youth can result in colorful stories to share during dinner outings in adulthood. Though many of these stories are full of fun, others may involve events that led to a serious injury.

Injuries during summertime jobs are not uncommon. A recent publication in the Claims Journal delves into the issues that come with these accidents and reports that between the years of 1998 and 2007 there was an annual average of 795,000 injuries to young workers. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) also reports that there were 403 workers under the age of 24 who were killed as a result of workplace accidents in 2015.

What causes these accidents?

Reasons for injuries can include the fact that younger workers are often expected to use machinery. These workers are often unfamiliar with the machinery and yet employers may fail to provide adequate training. This combination can result in serious injury. Injuries can also result when young employees work with chemicals or are expected to work outdoors during hot summer days.

In addition to a lack of training, young workers are often enthusiastic and enjoy a challenge. These attributes can put them at an increased risk for injury, a fact that employers should mitigate through the use of proper training.

Are remedies available?

The Pennsylvania Workers' Compensation Act provides for the coverage of medical expenses and wage-loss compensation for nearly every worker in the state. Pennsylvania's Department of Labor and Industry specifically states that these protections extend to include seasonal and part time workers. As such, remedies through a workers' compensation claim for teens who are injured during the completion of work duties during summertime employment are certainly available. This is true even if the teen is under the age of 18 at the time of the accident.

Don't forget, however, that Pennsylvania's Child Labor Law puts limitations on children under 18 working in certain occupations, and children under 18 require a work permit. The PA Workers' Compensation Act makes it clear that minors may receive compensation for work injuries even though they were working in violation of the child labor laws. Additionally, if the minor is illegally employed, the compensation due is 150% of the amount that would be payable to the minor if legally employed, and the employer, not the insurance carrier, is liable for the additional compensation.

Children who are disabled for a period of time following a work injury, assuming they earned relatively lower wages, would typically receive a weekly compensation rate of 90% of their preinjury average weekly wage. The procedure to start a PA workers' comp claim is the same for children as for adults - they must report their injury right away to a supervisor and seek medical treatment.

These claims can be difficult to navigate and denials are not uncommon. Insurance companies may deny benefits or provide an unreasonable amount for even the most obvious of claims. As a result, it is wise for those who are injured on-the-job or who receive a denial of benefits to seek legal counsel. An experienced attorney can guide you or your child through the process and ensure that his or her right to benefits is protected.