If you are accidentally injured at your place of work and in the course of your employment, Workers Compensation guarantees you medical care and cash benefits. These benefits are paid by your employer’s insurance carrier. Workers Compensation is considered the exclusive remedy for workplace injury and, in general, you cannot sue your employer or a fellow employee if you are hurt on the job.
There are several exceptions to this rule. States may vary as to the type of lawsuits they allow but, for the most part, you can sue outside the Workers Compensation system in the following instances:
Intentional Conduct By Employer or Fellow Employee
If your employer or a co-employee hurts you on purpose, you may be able to sue for compensation above and beyond what Workers Compensation might provide you. The act must be intentional rather than negligent. In other words, it must be willful rather than careless, or even reckless, and the person who injures you must consciously intend the result of his act. For example, if you are having a disagreement with the owner of your company and he pushes you and causes you to fall and injure yourself, you may be able to sue him for damages.
If Your Employer Does Not Have Workers Compensation Insurance
If your employer is uninsured, you may have the choice of suing him in civil court for costs incurred by your injuries. This may give you the chance to recover more money than Workers Compensation might allow. On the other hand, you have the burden of proving that your employer was at fault in causing your injury. In a Workers Compensation claim, you do not have the burden of proof and can receive benefits regardless of who is at fault.
On occasion, a person other than your employer might be responsible for causing an on-the-job injury. For example, the owner of the building site or a subcontractor might be at fault for the circumstances causing the injury. Or, you may be hurt by a defective product or equipment or by a toxic substance.
If you decide to bring a lawsuit in cases like these, you may apply for and receive Workers Compensation benefits while legal action is pending. If you do receive payment from a third party, it will be necessary for you to reimburse the Workers Compensation program for the amount you received minus the share of fees and expenses from the proceeds you received. You do not have to pay anything out of pocket.