If you were hurt at work, you may think filing a workers' compensation claim is your only option. In most situations, a work comp claim is the only recourse - paying lost time benefits, medical bills and potentially permanent disability or vocational benefits. That means no damages for pain and suffering or the impact on your family.
However, in certain situations filing a personal injury lawsuit is also a viable course of action!
Here are certain circumstances that may warrant bringing a lawsuit outside of your workers' compensation claim.
Suing a third party (someone outside of your employer)
Depending on the details of your workplace injury, you may be able to sue a third party. A third party is someone or some company that is not your employer. Examples include:
- Product defect: If you sustained an injury because of a defective product, you may be able to hold the manufacturer liable. Defective machinery and equipment at work may cause or contribute to a severe injury. You can explore a products liability case in addition to a work comp case.
- Toxic/chemical exposure: You may also suffer an injury from a toxic substance (i.e., asbestos). In this case, you might be able to sue the manufacturer.
- Motor vehicle accident: If you suffered a motor vehicle accident while working and there is another person/company responsible, you may be able to pursue a personal injury claim against that negligent person or company. This type of claim can be pursued along with a work comp claim.
By suing a third party, you may be able to get coverage that workers' compensation does not cover, such as disability payments, pain and suffering, or punitive damages.
Suing your employer?
Despite the emotions involved, you CANNOT sue your employer or a co-worker for the effect of a workplace injury. Your only recourse is to file a worker's compensation claim. Even if your employer did something truly negligent, they are protected from a personal injury lawsuit. The only potential claim is a safety violation claim, which can increase your work comp benefits by a measly 15% (capped at $15,000 total).
Accordingly, if makes sense to explore if your injury was the result of a third party, outside of your employer.
Even after reading this, it may be confusing to determine whether you should file a personal injury lawsuit on top of your workers' compensation claim. Each injury and situation is unique, so you should talk to a lawyer about your options.