Workplace Injury: When You Can Sue Outside of Workers’ Compensation
Workers’ compensation insurance may not be your only recourse for a workplace injury.
If you’ve been injured in the workplace, you’ve probably been told that the only compensation you can receive will come from your employer’s workers’ compensation insurance. Although this is the general rule, there are many exception — situations in which you may be able to sue for damages caused by your injuries. For example:
If you were injured by a defective product, you might be able to bring a products liability action against the manufacturer of the product.
If you were injured by a toxic substance, you might be able to bring a toxic tort lawsuit against the manufacturer of that substance.
If you were injured because of your employer’s intentional or egregious conduct, you might be able to bring a personal injury lawsuit against your employer.
If your employer does not carry workers’ compensation insurance, you might be able to sue your employer in civil court or collect money from a state fund.
If a third party caused your injury, you might be able to bring a personal injury lawsuit against that person.
Although workers’ compensation can provide money and benefits to an injured worker, temporary disability and permanent disability payments are usually quite low and don’t compensate the worker for things like pain and suffering.
Workers’ compensation also does not provide punitive damages to punish an employer for poor safety controls or dangerous conditions. That’s why it’s important for injured workers to understand their rights to bring a case outside of the workers’ compensation system.
In addition to the lawsuits described in this article, you might obtain additional money from government benefits such as Social Security disability insurance (SSDI or SSI) if your injury is disabling and prevents you from working.
If You Were Injured by a Defective Product
When a worker is injured by a machine or piece of equipment that is defective, failed to work properly, or is inherently dangerous, the manufacturer of the machine or equipment can be held responsible for the injury if it knew of the danger and/or didn’t properly warn the business or employees of the danger. In such a situation, the manufacturer would have to compensate the worker for things like medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
Bill works in a factory that produces office products. His job is to operate a punch press that punches holes in boxes. One day, when Bill puts his hand into the press to adjust a box, the foot pedal that he uses to stop the press sticks, and the press crushes three of his fingers. His fingers are no longer usable after the accident. Bill can collect workers’ compensation from his employer, and he also has a possible products liability case against the manufacturer of the defective press.
If you have been injured by an unsafe machine or other equipment in your workplace, consider talking to an attorney about your rights. You can also file a complaint with the Department of Labor’s Occupational Health and Safety Administration if there have been unsafe conditions in addition to filing a workers’ compensation claim. This is a particularly important step to take if your employer is still requiring you or other employees to use the equipment.
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