The workers’ compensation system involves a number of tradeoffs. From your standpoint, you have a much higher chance of receiving benefits. However, your compensation is lower than it would be in a personal injury case. From the employer’s vantage point, they must pay workers’ compensation insurance premiums that can add up quickly. The flip side is that they generally cannot be sued for negligence. Nonetheless, there are only specific times when an injured employee can file a lawsuit for a workplace injury.
Workers’ Compensation Makes a Lawsuit Against Your Employer Very Unlikely
If the employer has paid the workers’ compensation premiums, they are largely immune to lawsuits. The most common exception is when the employer has engaged in serious and willful misconduct that has injured an employee. This is not covered by workers’ compensation insurance. Because the employer has no coverage for these incidents, the injured employee can sue. This exception would involve instances where the employer intentionally exposed an employee to danger, knowing full well what could happen. For example, if the employee was injured when the employer removed the safety guards on a power press, the worker could sue. Do keep in mind that this is a high standard and damages are capped.
There are three other specific scenarios where you can sue the employer- (1) employer made the product that caused your injuries; (2) employer would be responsible to a third party for the same injuries; (3) employer failed to sustain a valid workers compensation insurance policy at the time of your injury.
You Can Possibly Sue a Third Party for a Workplace Injury
More commonly, an injured employee can file a lawsuit against a third party that is not their employer. These people or entities do not have workers’ compensation insurance that covers these injuries. Since there is no remedy that the injured worker has, they can file a negligence lawsuit.
There are numerous possibilities for third parties who could be responsible for your injuries. One common scenario is when you have been injured by an employee of another company or an independent contractor called in to perform a specific job. This commonly happens on job construction sites when there are multiple contractors working on the job. If you are a subcontractor and you have been injured by the general contractor or another subcontractor, you can file a third-party lawsuit.
Another common example of a workplace injury is a car or truck accident. When you are driving a company car or doing something else on the roadway for work, you can recover if you have been hit by another driver. You could file a claim against their insurance or a lawsuit. If they are working for a company, their own employer is legally responsible for their actions, and you can sue their company. This lawsuit would require that you prove that they were negligent.
Product Liability lawsuits for Defective Work Equipment
Finally, many workers are injured by defective work tools or machines. In these cases, you could file a product liability case against the company that made or sold the product. Here, you could prove the following defects to recover compensation:
- Design defects – The design of the product has an inherent flaw that makes it unreasonably dangerous.
- Manufacturing defects – There is nothing wrong with the design, but there was a mistake, or something went wrong in the manufacturing process that made the product unreasonably dangerous.
- Marketing defects – The manufacturer knew or should have known that there were dangers to their product, and they failed to fix the problem or warn the public about the dangers.
Why Injured Employees Want to Sue for Workplace Injuries
You may be wondering why we are so focused on finding a way for an injured employee to file a negligence lawsuit. Simply stated, the compensation would be more in a negligence lawsuit for the following reasons:
- You can recover compensation for pain and suffering in a personal injury lawsuit but not in a workers’ compensation claim.
- You will be paid for your full lost wages in a negligence case, as opposed to partial benefits in a workers’ compensation claim.
- Workers’ compensation lost wages benefits could be time-limited, unlike personal injury claims.
When given a choice, most people will opt for filing a personal injury lawsuit, but this is a conversation that you must have with your lawyer.
What to Do When You Have Been Injured on the Job
When you have been injured on the job, any lawyer will review the facts of your case to see if there is some way to file a lawsuit. It could be that you need to file a workers’ compensation claim. Even though the compensation is less, you do not have as much risk because you do not have to prove negligence. You can even recover if your own mistake led to your injury. So long as you were injured and it was work-related, you should be able to receive benefits.
Even if you have a possible third-party claim, you may want to consider accepting the workers’ compensation benefits. This will help protect you if your lawsuit is not successful, as you would at least receive workers’ comp benefits. If you won your lawsuit or settled your case, your employer may be able to get a lien against your recovery to pay back for the benefits that they advanced. In other words, exploring the workers’ compensation claims process helps you hedge against your own personal risk.
What you need to do is have a conversation with a lawyer who is experienced in both workers’ compensation claims and personal injury lawsuits right after your injury. They can outline all of your legal options and the best course of action to recover as much compensation as possible.
Call a Southern California Workplace Injury Attorney
If you have been injured on the job, contact the attorneys at The Arshakyan Law Firm to learn about your options for receiving financial compensation. Whether you choose to file a workers’ compensation claim or a third-party lawsuit, we can help you. Financial compensation after a workplace injury is a critical necessity, and you should never take any chances. Contact us online or call us today at (888) 851-5005 to schedule your free initial consultation.