Can I Sue My Employer For A Work Injury?

Wisconsin Workers’ Compensation Benefits: An Exclusive Remedy

One of the most common questions that injured workers ask is whether they can sue their employer for a work injury. The short answer is no. The workers’ compensation system is the only way to get money for your injuries. It is an “exclusive remedy.” The inability to bring a personal injury claim – meaning no pain and suffering damages – can come as quite a shock to the employee who has been severely injured at work. Even though a worker cannot “sue” their employer or co-worker, they do have the right to bring a workers’ compensation claim, which provides compensation for lost time benefits, medical expenses and permanent disabilities. Workers’ compensation benefits can still be significant, and injured workers should bring those claims with assistance from experienced attorneys, if necessary.

“The deal cut by employers and workers in Wisconsin in 1911 still stands: Employers gave up the right to common law defenses for a fixed schedule of benefits; employees gave up the right to sue their employer [for a work injury] in return for workers’ compensation benefits.” – Tom Domer, “Wisconsin Workers’ Compensation Experts”

Employer’s Intentional, Reckless Or Illegal Action

If an injury results from an employer’s intentional, reckless or illegal action, there is a special rule in Wisconsin that states that the employer will be responsible for an additional 15 percent increase in compensation.

The employer must have done one of the following:

  • Violated a safety order or statute
  • Failed to use safety devices
  • Disobeyed an established safety rule

The increase in compensation is capped at a maximum of $15,000.

What If I Was At Fault?

Workers may be reluctant to file a workers’ compensation claim if they feel the injury is due to their own fault. Sometimes they feel that the injury was due to their own violation of a safety rule or because of alcohol or drug use. In some states, this could bar a workers’ compensation recovery but not in Wisconsin. An injury caused by the employee’s failure to use a safety device or adhere to a safety rule could result in a 15% decrease in workers’ compensation benefits, to a cap of $15,000, but the worker can still claim benefits. Therefore, even if you believe you were at fault, you still have a workers’ compensation claim and should contact an attorney to discuss it.

Under the law after March 2, 2016, a worker’s entire compensation benefits could be denied if a worker’s violation of a drug and/or alcohol policy was causal to their work injury. Such situations are rare and likely even harder to prove by the employer or insurance carrier. If the entirety of your benefits has been denied because of an alleged alcohol policy or drug policy violation, contact the experienced attorneys at Domer Law.

You May Be Eligible for Claims Against a Third Party

Despite being unable to sue your employer, there are circumstances in which you have access to remedies beyond workers’ compensation benefits. If a third party who is not your employer injures you while you are on the job, you may be able to receive further compensation through a lawsuit.

Third-party claims are available for medical expenses, loss of wages and pain and suffering. If you have been injured by a third party, the attorneys at Domer Law can help you determine if you are eligible for compensation outside of your workers’ comp claim.

Contact a Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Workers’ Compensation Attorney

If you have questions about lawsuits involving your employer or third-party claims, contact a lawyer from Domer Law online today. Tom and Charlie Domer are attorneys with experience in handling virtually every variety of Wisconsin workers’ compensation case. Call our Waukesha number at 262-333-1938, or call our Milwaukee office at 414-279-2647 to schedule a free consultation.