Proposed HB 2207 Would Expand Coverage for Pennsylvania Workers Exposed to Hazardous Materials, But Does It Deny Access to Common Pleas Court?
Earlier this year, House Bill 2207, which would change workers’ compensation laws in the state by expanding coverage for claimants who were exposed to hazardous materials while on the job.
Measure calls for several changes to protect employers from being brought into court
Under current Pennsylvania law, most employees who file claims for workers’ compensation benefits give up the right to sue their employers in civil claims, with one notable exception: employees with asbestos-related diseases. The state’s Supreme Court established this exception as long as “symptoms of the disease did not manifest until more than 300 weeks after the last occupational exposure.” Existing laws that limited claims after 300 weeks meant such claims were historically denied under workers’ comp. And, under the current system, claims that involve HAZMAT exposure could take years to process and often get hampered by that 300-week restriction. Because of this, employers could be sued directly in Common Pleas Court with expanded damages rather than in a workers’ compensation claim because there would have been no remedy under workers’ compensation.
Under HB 2207, some civil asbestos actions would no longer need to be filed; occupational diseases involving materials like mold, asbestos, heavy metals and carcinogens, where symptoms from exposure could take many years to develop, would be covered under workers’ comp. The bill would allow employees to file claims concurrent with the date when they were diagnosed or when the disease was detected, with the 300-week limitation not applying.
A similar law already exists in Ohio, so Pennsylvania would be following precedent set by other states with this type of change to its workers’ compensation laws. Proponents say the bill would provide key workplace protections to those who work in potentially dangerous environments while protecting employers from civil claims.
For further guidance on taking the right steps after suffering a workplace illness or injury, contact a skilled Pennsylvania workers’ compensation attorney at Rudberg Law Offices, LLC. Call our office at 412-488-6000 or contact us online.