When You Should Sue Outside of Workers Compensation
The general rule for compensating employees who sustain work-related injuries is that the only damages they can recover will be from their employer workers’ compensation insurance. This system has various advantages for the employee but at an expense. Since workers’ comp is a no-fault system, the employee doesn’t have to blame the party involved. Thus, the worker forfeits his/her right to file a lawsuit against the party at fault in exchange for given benefits.
Additionally, the workers’ compensation insurance system limits the injured employee’s benefits to medical bills, lost wages, retraining benefits, death benefits, and lost earning capacity in case the injury causes permanent disability.
However, there are exceptional situations where a worker can file a lawsuit in civil court in case of a work-related injury. Suing the party at fault may grant an employee a larger settlement, including punitive damages, loss of companionship, and pain and suffering. Let’s explore these alternative options of when you can sue outside of workers’ compensation.
If a Faulty Product Caused The Injury
If you sustain on-the-job injuries caused by faulty equipment or machines, one that failed to function properly, or one that is naturally dangerous, you can hold the manufacturer of that equipment or machine liable for those injuries, especially if the company was aware of the risk and did not properly caution the employees or business. In this case, you can file a lawsuit and the manufacturer will be requested to compensate you for the damage the injury caused, including medical expenses, pain, suffering, lost income, loss of future earning ability, among others.
In case you have suffered an injury caused by a defective product at your place of work, you should ask a Workers Compensation Attorney to explain your rights and what steps you should take. Apart from filing a compensation claim, you may also consider filing a complaint with the Department of Labor’s Occupational Health and Safety Administration if you have been working under insecure conditions. Filing a complaint is important, especially if the company or employer still wants you or the other workers to continue using the defective product.
If Toxic Chemicals Caused the Injury
In certain cases, the chemicals that employees handle are harmful and result in illnesses and injuries. Toxic chemicals can include benzene, silica, asbestos, chromium compounds, and radium, and any chemical that can cause complications to your body. You could file a toxic tort lawsuit if the exposure to any of these chemicals in the workplace caused an injury or illness.
Generally, toxic chemical injuries are classified into two categories. That is acute injuries and latent injuries. Acute injuries show up immediately after they occur, for example, chemical burns. On the other hand, latent injuries might take months or years to be evident, for instance, lung disease or cancer.
Due to their delay to show, proving the existence of latent injuries may be quite difficult compared to acute ones. However, it is not impossible to win a case. Several employees have won lawsuits they filed years after having been exposed to the harmful chemicals. Particularly, employees who contract mesothelioma or asbestosis almost always win their cases since the relationship between asbestos exposure and mesothelioma or asbestosis has been substantiated in several lawsuits.
When a toxic chemical inflicts injuries on an employee, he/she can file a lawsuit against the manufacturing company of that toxic chemical, as well as the manufacturers of any protective equipment that was ineffective when using it to handle the toxic substance.
If much time has elapsed between the exposure and the illness or injury you sustained, you will have to seek the help of an experienced Workers Compensation Attorney who may assist in sorting out the complications in your case. Even if your injury is recent, a lawyer may help you get the best possible compensation for your case.
You can also file a complaint with OSHA if the toxic substance continues to create an unsafe working environment for you or others.
If the Injury Was Caused by a Third Person
Sometimes when a worker suffers a work-related injury, it’s neither the employer’s fault nor the fault of a defective product manufacturer, but the blame lies with another party. In a case like this, the injured employee can sue the at-fault party for damages. The third-party could be a construction engineer, contractor, or subcontractor.
A third-party claim also applies when one party gets injured by another while operating a company vehicle. When you file a lawsuit for an injury caused by a third-party, you may recover all your lost income and medical bills. Additionally, you may recover damages for the pain and suffering you went through.
Suing Your Employer for a Work-Related Injury
Certain circumstances allow an employee to file a personal injury lawsuit against his/her employer in a civil court. As an employee, you can file the lawsuit in case:
- The injury you sustained was due to your employer’s deliberate conduct. For you to sue the employer for deliberately exposing you to an injury, he/she must have done something with the direct and specific intent of causing the injury. For instance, if your boss pushes you intentionally to hit a wall, and it results in an injury.
Note that this is only applicable to intentional conduct by your employer. Even in extreme cases, an employer’s negligence or failure to protect an employee’s well-being and carelessness may not measure up to intentional conduct.
- Your employer doesn’t have or has inadequate workers’ compensation insurance. If your employer doesn’t have workers’ compensation insurance, he/she is subjected to considerable penalties and fines, which gives you the right to file a lawsuit. Suing your employer allows you to claim multiple damages that workers’ compensation doesn’t pay, for instance, emotional distress and lost companionship. You may also recover punitive damages in serious cases. For instance, if the employer showed gross negligence or gross disregard for employee safety.
It is worth noting that apart from filing a lawsuit, you may acquire additional funds from government benefits like Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) in case the injury is incapacitating and hinders the performance of your duties.
Even though workers’ compensation benefits provide you with money and other benefits in case of a work-related injury, the payment doesn’t cover certain damages like pain and suffering and punitive damages. That is why it is crucial to understand that you have a right to file a lawsuit outside the set workers’ compensation rules and regulations if you sustain an injury in the workplace. Consult with a skilled Workers Compensation Attorney to know whether you can move to a civil court or if you should settle with your employer’s workers’ compensation insurance.