When you go to work, your employer has a reasonable duty of care to make sure your job site and workplace environment are safe. So what happens if you’re injured at work? Can you hire a personal injury attorney and sue your employer for damages?
In most cases, the answer is no. Most employers are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance which covers them in the case of workplace injuries—even if there was some sort of negligence involved—so they are effectively immune to personal injury lawsuits because the employee receives workers’ compensation benefits instead. As with anything else, however, there are a few exceptions. Let’s explore this question further to see what we can learn.
How Workers’ Compensation Works
Why does worker’s compensation exempt an employer from lawsuits for on-the-job injuries? The answer effectively lies in how the insurance itself works. The employer is, of course, expected to maintain a safe work environment, but they are required by law to pay workers’ compensation benefits regardless of their safety record or who happens to be at fault in a workplace accident. As a tradeoff, the law grants them “employer immunity” from lawsuits because workers’ compensation kicks in regardless of fault. On the one hand, this means you’re generally limited to what workers’ compensation allows for your injuries (which is basically the cost of your treatment plus a portion of your wages). On the other hand, you are eligible for these benefits even if your injury accident was effectively your own fault. In most cases, as long as the injury occurred on the job, you’re eligible for the benefits.
When Can You Sue Your Employer for Your Injuries?
While workers’ comp laws generally protect the employer from lawsuits, there are exceptions in which employer immunity does not apply. In these cases, you’re allowed to sue your employer. These exceptions include the following:
- Your employer didn’t carry workers’ comp in violation of the law. If workers’ compensation isn’t in play, your employer is liable.
- Fraudulent concealment. If your injury or illness was aggravated because your employer wrongfully concealed the existence of your injury and its link to your employment, they may be liable. (For example, if you’re injured by chemical exposure your employer deliberately didn’t disclose to you.)
- Willful assault. If your employer purposely assaults you and injures you (or instructs another employee to do so), this act is not covered by workers’ comp, and you may sue them.
- Dual capacity. If you are injured by a part or tool manufactured by your employer, but they sold it to a third party who in turn provided it to you, your employer may be liable by dual capacity (the same as if you sued a manufacturer for a defective item that injured you).
- Power press injuries. California law makes a specific exception for power press injuries in which the employer knowingly removed or failed to install a safety guard. You can sue your employer for damages under these conditions.
If you have been injured on the job in Tarzana, Orange County, or other parts of SoCal, a good work injury attorney can help ensure you receive your full workers’ comp benefits—or can help with a lawsuit if you qualify for one of the exceptions. The attorneys at Accident Defenders are here to help. Call us today at 323-818-HURT or fill out our online contact form to schedule a free consultation.