When an Employee can Sue for a Workers Compensation Injury
Most states, through statute, limit a worker's remedy for a work related injury to a workers compensation claim against the employer. About the only exception is when the employer actually indends to cause harm to the worker otherwise the employee's sole remedy against the employer will be through the workers' compensation system. Many workers compensation statutes also prohibit legal actions against fellow employees who may cause the worker's injury. Thus, workers' compensation coverage is typically referred to as the "exclusive remedy" available to an injured worker. Many times this works to the employees favor as they will receive workers compensation benefits for medical care, lost wages and rehabilitation, even if the worker causes his own injury.
An employee may sue for an on the job injury when workers compensation statutes in their jurisdictions don't prohibit the legal action. This typically involves situations where the worker is injured because of the negligence of a "third party" - an individual, company or business which is neither the worker's employer nor their fellow employee. Workers' compensation does not block a lawsuit for injuries intentionally caused by an employer.
The "exclusive remedy" provisions of workers' compensation statutes generally apply only when the employer carries workers compensation insurance as required by state law. An employer who chooses not to obtain coverage, as required by statute, or chooses to opt out of the workers compensation system, if this is an available option in their state of operation, will not be protected by the "exclusive remedy" provision. You may also find that in a few jurisdictions, the employee may also be able to opt out of workers compensation, having the right to choose between pursuing a claim for guaranteed benefits under the workers' compensation system , or to bring suit against the employer. You will find that most states will not permit the employer or employee to opt out of the system.
Here's a few situations where an injured employee may be able to sue and still receive workers compensation benefits:
I've provided above some information about the "exclusive remedy" provision found in most workers compensation statutes and shown some generic examples of when an injured employee may bring legal action and still receive workers compensation benefits. The information provided in this article is only general in nature and not to be taken as legal advice. For information about any claim situation please seek competent legal counsel in the jurisdiction that you reside.
This article is brought to you by WorkCompConsultants.com, an independent workers compensation consulting firm dedicated to helping employers prevent and resolve work comp issues.