Most people know that when someone is injured at work, workers’ compensation insurance will cover the expenses. But what a lot of people don’t realize is that in some situations, employees who suffer an on-the-job injury can sue their employer in court. Here’s what you need to know about suing an employer because of an on-the-job injury.
When Workers’ Compensation Applies
If a worker suffers an injury while on the job or because of work-related conditions, that worker can receive workers’ compensation. For example, a worker who injures her back while lifting a heavy object at work can file a workers’ compensation claim. So, too, can a worker who develops a repetitive stress injury, such as carpal tunnel syndrome, because of typing on a computer all day.
When Workers Can Sue Employers
Not all injuries are covered under workers’ compensation. Some injuries are so significant that workers can ignore the normal requirement of filing a workers’ comp claim, and instead file a lawsuit.
For example, workers who are injured because of an employer’s intentional or reckless behavior can skip workers’ compensation and file a lawsuit. In other situations, workers harmed by a defective product or toxic substance can file a lawsuit, as can those hurt when an employer doesn’t have the appropriate workers’ compensation coverage as required by state law.
Defective Products, Employers, and Manufacturers
In many workplace injury cases, a worker suffers an injury not necessarily because of someone’s intentional or negligent actions, but because an equipment manufacturer produced a defective product. In such cases, the employee is not really suing the employer, but rather, sues the company that made the equipment.
For example, a painter employed by a painting company might use different types of equipment in the course of his day. One day, the paint sprayer he is using malfunctions, causing an explosion that leaves the painter severely injured. If the explosion was caused by a defective product, and had nothing to do with the employer’s recklessness, the injured painter can sue the paint sprayer manufacturer.
Similar to defective products, workers who suffer injuries because of toxic substances found in the workplace can also pursue remedies outside of workers’ compensation. As with defective products, any manufacturer that produces a toxic substance can be held liable for injuries workers suffer, even if those injuries only appear years later.
For example, workers who are exposed to benzene can suffer significant negative health consequences. Short-term symptoms of benzene exposure can include headaches, rapid heartbeats, and dizziness, while long-term side effects can include a weakened immune system and different types of cancer. Depending on the circumstances, workers exposed to toxic materials in the workplace might be able to sue either the employer or the manufacturer for the injuries they suffered.
Determining if you can pursue a claim outside of workers’ compensation is not something the average worker can do. If you’ve been injured or have suffered illnesses because of your job, you should talk to a personal injury attorney near you. Workers’ compensation laws differ from state to state, so you need an attorney familiar with local laws in order to properly evaluate your case.