Can I Sue My Employer for Work-Related Injury?
February 24, 2022 | Uncategorized
If you suffered injuries on the job, one of the first questions you will ask after emergency medical treatment is: Who will pay for the costs associated with my injury? Can you sue your employer for your injuries and losses?
The answer to this question will depend on the unique facts and circumstances of your case, but often, you cannot sue your employer. Instead, workers’ compensation insurance will be the primary source of compensation for your medical bills and lost wages.
In this article, we’ll explore common on-the-job injuries and how the workers’ compensation system works for you. Also, read on to learn how a workers’ compensation attorney can support you every step of the way and make the most of your claim for benefits. In limited circumstances, you can file a personal injury lawsuit against a third party not affiliated with your employer, and a workers’ compensation lawyer can help determine this as well.
Common Work-Related Injuries #1: Traumatic Brain Injury
One of the most common injuries that happen on the job is a traumatic brain injury or TBI. A TBI happens when the head experiences a bump, blow, or penetrating wound. The most common causes of a TBI at work are:
When the head hits a solid surface or a moving body comes to a sudden halt, damage to the soft tissues of the brain can cause effects that vary in severity and duration.
The most common form of TBI is a concussion. A concussion can keep a person from returning to work for weeks, months, or even years, and victims can require extensive medical treatment. Workers with TBIs deserve coverage for all their medical care and lost wages due to their injuries.
Common Work-Related Injury #2: Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome
When a person experiences a traumatic event like an accident, they can develop post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD. If you experience a traumatic experience on the job, such as an accident, explosion, or severe injury, the experience can linger in the mind and cause further symptoms.
A person suffering from PTSD may need ongoing psychological treatment and may have difficulty working due to the mental health implications of PTSD. When you cannot return to work following an injury – whether physical or psychological – you should receive benefits to cover your lost wages and treatment costs. The amount you deserve in benefits will depend on the unique facts and circumstances associated with your injury, and a workers’ compensation attorney can help you determine what you should receive and how to recover it through the workers’ comp claim process.
Common Work-Related Injury #3: Repetitive Stress Injury
When your work requires that you repeat the same motions over and over again, you can develop an injury that is a repetitive stress injury or RSI. You don’t need to experience an acute accident or a sudden injury that leads to your symptoms. Instead, simply doing the same thing each day for many years can lead to the development of muscular and nerve damage that can cause ongoing pain and impact your ability to work.
RSIs like tendonitis or carpal tunnel syndrome develop due to uninterrupted repetitions of an activity or motion, unnatural or awkward motions like twisting the arm or wrist, incorrect posture, muscle fatigue, or overexertion. Symptoms include pain, numbness, tingling, visible swelling, and a loss of strength and flexibility.
RSIs can inhibit your ability to work and enjoy your life, and if it stems from your job duties and the workplace, you should receive benefits through workers’ compensation insurance.
Workers’ Compensation Insurance Is a “No-Fault” System
If you are working for an employer as an employee, chances are your state has regulations in place that require your employer to carry workers’ compensation insurance. Some states have requirements concerning workers’ compensation insurance for companies that have a minimum number of employees, while in other states, all employers must carry workers’ compensation insurance.
When you suffer injuries on the job, workers’ compensation insurance provides a “no-fault” system of coverage, which means that you are entitled to certain benefits for your injuries regardless of who or what was the cause of your injuries. Guaranteed coverage, however, also means that you lose the right to sue your employer for compensation for the same injury and associated damages due to negligence.
The no-fault system of workers’ compensation insurance is a trade-off, with employees having the assurance of coverage even if they caused the accident that led to their injury, and the employer not having to worry about facing costly lawsuits for the damages associated with numerous injuries on the job. At this point, you might be asking, if I cannot sue, what kind of compensation can I receive from workers’ compensation insurance?
Workers’ Compensation Insurance Covers Medical Costs and Lost Earnings
The primary purpose of workers’ compensation insurance is to pay for the medical costs that result from your injury, in addition to a percentage of the wages you lose if your injury keeps you away from work. The benefits you receive will depend on your immediate emergency medical bills and any ongoing costs that the injury causes.
Such costs include follow-up treatments, second opinions, medications, and any rehabilitation that might be necessary. In the short-term, your wages should be covered, while in the long-term, if you cannot return to the same kind of position as before or one that pays less, for replacement of your losses in the long-term.
Workers’ Compensation Benefits Are Not Automatic
It would be ideal if you automatically received your workers’ compensation benefits after your injury on the job so that you don’t have to worry about paying bills out of pocket or falling behind on your household expenses due to a lack of income. Unfortunately, this is not the case.
To collect your workers’ compensation benefits, you must:
- Submit a complete, accurate, and comprehensive application
- Submit sufficient evidence, including medical opinions, to substantiate your injury
- Prove that the injury occurred on the job
- Get past any inquiries from the insurance company
- Potentially face an initial denial, leading to an appeal
- Appeals may still result in a denial, requiring you to take further action
The process of collecting your workers’ compensation benefits is complex and can be difficult to process accurately and completely when you have just suffered injuries and are trying to recover. If you will have lasting disabilities, the insurance company might be quick to offer a settlement that seems favorable. If this happens, beware – as these settlements are often far too low, and signing a settlement agreement prevents you from collecting anything further. A lawyer can help you negotiate for the full amount of coverage you need for the rest of your working life.
Knowing how much you need for future medical care can also be challenging if you are considering a settlement. Not only should your current medical bills fall under coverage, but also the long-term medical care you will need for your injury. This might include years of medication, treatment, and rehabilitation, all of which can be quite costly.
Knowing what you deserve under the law requires the accurate calculation of your future needs, and your workers’ compensation attorney has the experience and knowledge you need to determine what your benefits should be and to collect them in full.
If you are out of work for just a week from your injury, it fully heals, and you are back to work in full, then your only wage compensation will be for that week of missed work. More complicated injuries, however, can lead to long-term changes in what you can earn. When your earning potential suffers a negative impact in the long term, you should receive benefits to make up for your lost income due to the injury, which is also something your workers’ compensation attorney can advise you on.
Partial or Total Disability Compensates for Long-Term Injury
If your injury’s effects prevent you from performing part or all of your job – or any job for that matter – for weeks, months, or years, you can receive partial or total disability benefits. It is important to note that your workers’ compensation disability payments generally will not cover all of the income that you miss out on. Instead, workers’ comp will factor in what you earned before your injury to determine your disability payments.
When your payments do not fully compensate you for the lost income associated with your injuries, you might face the responsibility of paying for things out of pocket. Your workers’ compensation attorney will do whatever possible so you receive full compensation for your injuries, whether as monthly benefits or a settlement, so that you do not have long-term financial concerns and stress.
The Insurance Company Can Make Your Claim Process Challenging
It is important to remember that the insurance company works for itself and not for you. Insurance companies make the most of their profits by maximizing revenues and minimizing costs like any other for-profit business. For the insurance company, the revenues are the premiums that their customers pay for insurance policies, and their costs are the amounts they pay out to injured claimants like you.
The insurance company makes more money by denying whichever claims they can and paying as little as possible on those they do approve. Settlement offers often benefit the insurance company, not you, and the best way to ensure you get what you need for the future is to have a workers’ compensation attorney helping with your claim.
If Third-Party Negligence Caused Your Injuries, You Can Seek Additional Damages in an Injury Lawsuit
Within the context of workers’ compensation, the no-fault system applies to both the workers and employers so that workers get coverage and employers do not constantly worry about going out of business due to lawsuits from on-the-job injuries. However, if your injury happened because of the negligence of a third party, you can take separate legal action to seek additional damages for your injuries.
For example, if you were driving as part of your job duties and a distracted driver slammed into your car, causing your injuries, that driver can be liable for your losses, including full lost wages and non-economic damages like pain and suffering. Similarly, if you suffered injuries in a fall on the job because safety equipment was inherently defective and malfunctioned, you can seek additional compensation from the negligent manufacturer of the safety equipment.
When a third party’s negligence leads to your injuries, you can pursue a personal injury lawsuit, just not against your employer. Instead, your attorney can follow the usual process for third-party claims, including filing the necessary insurance claims and escalating the matter to civil court when necessary.
Connect with a Local Workers’ Compensation Attorney Today About Your Options
If you suffered injuries on the job and need to get started on collecting the benefits you need, a workers’ compensation lawyer can help. Whether you are looking for assistance with your initial claim, you received a claim denial and need to appeal, or you believe that a third party might be liable for your injuries, there are options available. Always get a workers’ compensation attorney working with you towards the best possible outcome in your case right away.
Case evaluations are no-cost and risk-free, and you never pay any fees out of pocket – or any fees at all unless we win your claim. Reach out to your local workers’ compensation lawyer to schedule a consultation to discuss your case today.