Ongoing Penn State Case Reveals the Complications of Workers’ Compensation Claims

Ongoing Penn State Case Reveals the Complications of Workers’ Compensation ClaimsA Pennsylvania case that has been ongoing for about five years is shedding light on the complications of workers’ compensation claims. The case involves a man named John Ward, who has been trying to collect workers’ compensation from Penn State for trauma he endured during his time there.

According to the Centre Daily Times, Ward filed for workers’ compensation several years ago after witnessing a man kill a woman in the parking lot of the university. The woman, Lesli Kelly, was a food service worker for Penn State Beaver and would often meet her ex-husband in the parking lot to exchange her children with her ex-husband as part of their custody agreement. In December 2017, she met with her ex-husband to get Christmas gifts that he had bought for their children. However, he pulled out a gun and shot her, and then he shot and killed himself.

Ward was a maintenance worker for the university and claimed that he saw both killings from a dorm window. As a result, he states that he now has post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and is unable to return to work. He filed for workers’ compensation several years ago, but the school does not believe that he should receive any compensation because he was not performing his work-related duties when he was watching the couple in the parking lot.

Understanding the concept of “work-related duties”

The reason this case has been going on so long is because no one can quite decide whether what he witnessed occurred while he was performing “work-related duties” or not.

Ward argued that he often resolves maintenance issues in the dorms and would occasionally see the couple exchanging children when passing by. He said that he noticed the couple this time as he was on his way to check his mailbox for any maintenance requests. However, a Pennsylvania State Trooper who investigated the murder said that he was told that Ward would often watch every custody exchange between the couple from the same dorm window that he saw the murder from. Therefore, he did not believe that Ward’s story added up and that he was not on his way to check his mailbox.

In 2019, a workers’ compensation judge denied Ward’s claim, stating that he was not injured “during an activity that furthered the interests of Penn State.” Ward appealed this ruling, which has been back and forth since.

What is PTSD?

The American Psychiatric Association defines PTSD as a mental disorder that people may suffer from after witnessing or experiencing a traumatic event. This disorder affects people in various ways, but the most common symptoms found among people with PTSD are intense thoughts, disturbing feelings, nightmares, and flashbacks.

Can you get workers’ compensation benefits for PTSD in York, PA?

In Pennsylvania, there are three different types of workers’ compensation psychological claims that can be filed, which include a Mental/Physical claim, Mental/Mental claim, and a Physical/Mental claim. The most difficult type of workers’ compensation claim is the Mental/ Mental claim, which states that you have a mental injury but no physical injuries.

In order to successfully file a Mental/Mental claim, you will need to submit proof of “abnormal working conditions,” which led to your mental injury. This can become complicated because each person’s circumstances are unique. Therefore, a store clerk may be able to file a claim for a mental injury after having a gun pointed at their head, but a police officer cannot file the same type of claim and expect to be approved. The reason for this is because a store clerk having a gun pointed at them is considered “abnormal working conditions,” but it is almost impossible to prove that a gun being pointed at a police officer while on duty is abnormal.

Why are workers’ compensation claims usually denied?

There are many reasons why workers’ compensation claims are denied. However, the most common that we have seen include:

  • Your injury is not severe enough to cause you to be out of work.
  • You were intoxicated while working.
  • You failed to report your injury within a certain amount of time (21 days in Pennsylvania).
  • You did not see a physician after being injured.
  • Your illness or injury is not work-related.

Will Ward receive workers’ compensation?

Right now, the case remains ongoing. However, it appears that Penn State is arguing that Ward was not doing his work duties when the mental injury occurred. Instead, he was looking out the window to see what was happening outside, which is something the State Trooper noted he understood Ward to do often. Therefore, while it is unclear if Ward will ultimately receive workers’ compensation, there is a good chance that he may not. The reason for this is because his mental injury does not appear to be work-related. While he was at work when his injury occurred, he was not mentally injured because of something that happened while performing his work duties.

One of the most common reasons we see for workers’ compensation claims is because the illness or injury was not work-related. Therefore, it is important that you take the time to ensure that you were within the scope of your job when you became injured or ill.

Whether you are in the beginning stages of filing a claim or you need to file an appeal, every York workers’ compensation case matters to our lawyers at KBG Injury Law. We take the time to learn about every individual’s circumstances as well as develop a strategy to fit each person’s legal needs. Therefore, if you are in York, Lancaster, Harrisburg, Hanover, or Gettysburg, we will be glad to assist you. Call our office or complete our contact form to schedule a free consultation today.