When You Should Sue Outside of Workers Compensation
When you suffer a work-related injury, you are likely to recover compensation from your employer through workers’ compensation. The workers’ compensation system is a no-fault system; thus, you cannot sue your employer. Still, the benefits may be insufficient to compensate for all damages such as emotional distress. Additionally, workers’ comp doesn’t provide punitive benefits to punish your employer for hazardous working conditions. Therefore, it is essential that you know your rights as well as when to file a civil lawsuit outside the workers’ comp, as discussed below.
When a Defective Product Injures You
When an employee is hurt by inherently hazardous or defective equipment or a machine, the machine’s manufacturer could be held accountable for that injury if they were aware of the hazard.
For instance, Mary works for a company that makes office products. One of her duties is operating a punch press that punches boxes. One morning, Mary puts her fingers into the punch press when adjusting boxes, the foot pedal that stops the punch press breaks down, crushing her hand. As a result, the injury prevents her from performing her job. Mary can be awarded workers’ comp benefits by her employers as well as file a product liability lawsuit against the punch press’ manufacturer.
Generally, in a defective product case, you should include all parties involved in the chain of distribution. This includes the manufacturer, suppliers, retailers, and distributors. Depending on the case, you could also receive compensation for the injury if the defect was a:
- Design Defect
A manufacturer becomes accountable for a design defect if there was foreseeable danger posed by their product during manufacturing, but they decided to continue making the product.
- Manufacturer Defect
A manufacturer defect is a defect resulting from unintentional error when manufacturing a product.
- Marketing Defect
Marketing defects originate from the manner a product is marketed, such as inadequate instructions and safety warnings or improper labeling.
It is important to note that for all the above claims, you should present evidence that the product was both defective and the defect led to the injury.
Benefits Received in a Product Liability Lawsuit
In most cases, compensatory damages are the only damages you will be awarded. Compensatory damages are meant to compensate all damages that have occurred to you as a result of the injury by attaching a dollar value. Common damages awarded include medical bills, pain, suffering, and lost wages.
If the court finds that the respondent acted negligently, you could also receive punitive damages.
You are Injured by a Toxic Chemical
Sometimes chemicals and substances that employees use are poisonous and could cause serious illness or injuries. Common toxic substances include silica, radium, chromium compounds, asbestos, and benzene.
There are two categories of toxic injuries:
- Latent Injuries
These are injuries that take time to manifest. They include lung diseases and cancer. Although it might seem that latent injuries are harder to verify compared to the latter, these cases aren’t impossible, particularly if you are suffering from asbestosis or mesothelioma.
- Acute injuries
These are injuries that appear immediately. They include poisonings and chemical burns.
When hurt by a poisonous substance, you can sue either the substance’s manufacturer or producers of safety gear which was ineffective in the handling of the substance.
It is important to seek help from a Workers Compensation Attorney to get help in handling any complex issues, especially if the injury is latent.
If the poisonous chemical is still making your workplace unsafe, you can consider bringing a complaint to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
If You are Injured by a Third-Party
You can also sue outside of workers’ compensation when an entity or individual separate from your employer causes an on-job accident. Examples of these instances are when you fall from an unstable scaffold as a contractor on a construction site or being hit by a drunk driver while attending to a company errand.
With third-party liability lawsuits, it is essential to prove the third party’s negligence or wrongful acts. To prove negligence, you should prove duty, breach of duty, and damages.
Your Company’s Intentional Conduct Injured You
In most cases, you are permitted to sue your boss if you were injured as a result of your company’s intentional actions. However, different states have different criteria to determine which conduct counts. Typically, negligence is not enough. You must present evidence that your employer deliberately intended to injure you.
For instance, in Arizona, the company must have purposefully or personally acted with the goal of hurting an employee.
Certain states apply the intentional act exemption to a situation where the company took actions that were substantially certain to result in an injury. Additionally, some States permit cases when the company consciously refuses to take corrective measures in spite of knowing that the hazardous condition would cause an injury.
Below are examples of common intentional torts:
- False imprisonment
- Intentional infliction of emotional stress
- Invasion of property
It is worth noting that the intentional act exemption only applies to your employer’s conduct (not your colleagues or supervisors).
When Your Company Does Not Have Workers’ Comp Insurance
In most states, all employers should have workers’ compensation coverage, either through a self-insured program or an insurance company. However, what happens if your boss does not have this coverage? In this case, you can sue your employer through a personal injury claim.
Unlike workers’ comp, with a personal injury lawsuit, you can be awarded the entire amount of the damages without being subjected to an arbitrary cap. You will also be awarded damages for emotional distress, punitive damages, and approximately 2/3 of your lost wages.
Different from workers’ compensation, you will be required to present evidence that your employer was responsible for the injury.
You can also seek compensation from Uninsured Employers Fund (funds reserved for workers injured while working for uninsured employers). This fund will cover medical expenses, a portion of lost wages, and temporary disability damages.
Even if your injury meets any qualifications above, it can be overwhelming to obtain compensation through a lawsuit, especially when your employer has workers’ compensation insurance. Therefore, it is vital to have an experienced Workers Compensation Attorney by your side before accepting any settlement.