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Can You Sue Your Employer for a Work Injury?

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People can and often do get injured while they’re at work. While anyone can be injured at work, some occupations are more high-risk than others. 

For example, certain occupations put people at risk for concussions and other head injuries, which can be especially severe in terms of on-the-job accidents. 

Along with concussions and head injuries, other types of common work injuries include:

  • Overexertion injuries are related to things like pushing, carrying, pulling, and lifting. 
  • Slipping and tripping is a type of accident rather than an injury. This can lead to various types of injuries, such as head injuries or back injuries. 
  • Falling from an elevated place can lead to different types of injuries, similar to what happens with slipping and tripping. You might fall from a stairway, ladder, or roof in these situations. 
  • If something falls on you, it can lead to head injuries, but other types of injuries as well, such as back and neck injury. 
  • You could become entangled in machinery, which could lead to head and arm injuries.
  • Repetitive motion injuries can come from typing or sitting at a computer for long hours. 

If you’re injured at work, the following are things to know about whether or not you can sue your employer and what that process might look like. 

Workers’ Compensation and Workplace Lawsuits

The general answer to whether or not you can sue your employer if you’re injured at work is no. There’s a reason for that. 

When your employer provides workers’ compensation insurance for their employees, then it provides them with protection from personal injury claims brought by an employee. 

That’s the entire idea behind the system of workers’ compensation. 

It requires injured employees to give up their right to file a lawsuit against their employer in exchange for receipt of those benefits. In most cases, it doesn’t matter who is at-fault for your injuries. This is called a no-fault system. 

Employer immunity is another term relevant to this situation. Regardless of fault, employers have to pay workers’ compensation benefits, but then in exchange, they’re immune from personal injury claims from their employees. 

With that being said, there are a few exceptions. 

Intentional Torts

If you believe that your employers intentionally harmed you, you can file an intentional tort. These civil court cases include not just physical injuries and harms. They can also include injuries that aren’t physical, like emotional distress. 

Common intentional torts include:

  • Battery, which means you’re injured because an object or a person has hit you
  • Assault is an attempted battery or a threat that someone will commit battery against you
  • False imprisonment
  • Intentional emotional distress
  • Fraud which occurs when someone lies to you, and it leads you to be injured
  • Defamation which refers to a person making false statements about you that cause you harm—this can include libel and slander
  • Invasion of privacy
  • Conversion, meaning someone takes your property and makes it theirs
  • Trespassing, meaning someone used or entered your property without permission

Outside of your employer intentionally causing your injury, if your employer was grossly negligent, a lawsuit may be on the table. 

If your employer denied your workers’ compensation claim in bad faith, you might have grounds to sue. Before you can do so in that situation, you do have to go through other avenues first. For example, you will probably have to file an appeal with your state workers’ compensation board before you can file a lawsuit. 

If your employer manufactured the product that then led to your injury, you might be able to sue under the idea of product liability. 

If you were injured due to a situation involving a contractor or subcontractor, your employer might be liable based on their relationship. 

If you are an independent contractor instead of an employee, then you might be able to sue based on the negligence of the company you’re doing work for. If you aren’t technically an employee, then employer immunity doesn’t apply. 

If a toxic substance injured you, you may have grounds for a lawsuit. 

There are acute injuries that occur immediately after exposure. Some injuries may occur years after exposure to a substance.  

Workers’ Compensation If You Can’t Sue

As has been touched on, one of the main reasons it’s tough to sue your employer for an injury is because of workers’ compensation.

Workers’ compensation is meant to cover the cost of employee illnesses and injuries, including lost wages. In most states, it’s required if you have employees. 

If an employee is not only hurt but in some cases becomes sick on the job, their workers’ compensation insurance may pay for medical expenses. If an employee has to miss work because of injuries, they may receive partial lost wages through workers’ compensation. 

The specific details of workers’ compensation depend on the state. 

Following any sickness or injury at work, as an employee, there are steps you should take. 

You should report it to your employer right away. There are often deadlines for reporting an incident. 

Then, you should visit an approved doctor. The doctor or health care provider will create a medical report that’s filed with your injury claim. 

Your employer then has the responsibility to provide you the necessary forms, information about the claims process, and contact information for the insurance company the business uses

At this point, you can file your claim. 

Once an insurance provider approves the claim, you begin to receive workers’ compensation payments.

When you’re injured, and you’re ready to return to work, you might do so full-time or following a reduced schedule. The treating physician is the one who will make this recommendation. 

Employers have to make reasonable accommodations for you as you transition back to work, and they also have to put in place any necessary training to avoid a situation similar to yours in the future. 

You might also agree to a workers’ compensation settlement with your employer. This is a voluntary agreement you make with your employer to close out the case for a lump-sum and to end the matter permanently. 

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