If you’ve suffered a work-related injury or illness that you believe your employer could and should have prevented, you may wonder if you can sue them in addition to applying for worker’s compensation. Shouldn’t there be an additional liability for the employer if they were at fault?
What most people don’t realize is that when employers provide workers’ compensation, which most are required by law to do, they’re typically exempt from personal injury claims by employees. Workers’ comp is basically a “no-fault” system that allows employers to cover the medical and income needs of employees with work-related conditions without having to face lawsuits for the role they might have played in causing those conditions.
The exception of intentional torts
There are exceptions, however, for intentional tort injuries. An intentional tort is when someone does something purposefully that harms another person. They may not necessarily have meant to cause harm, but they intended to commit the act that caused the harm.
Examples of intentional torts that a person likely could sue their employer for include:
- Assault or battery
- False imprisonment
- Invasion of privacy
The latter could occur if, for example, someone got ahold of compromising photos of you and texted them to your co-workers. This — and some of the other torts listed — are likely to cause emotional distress rather than physical harm. However, all of these are examples of egregious actions for which an employer may be held liable.
What if you suffer harm at work that’s the fault of a third party, such as the manufacturer of the equipment or protective gear that malfunctioned? Typically, you can file a lawsuit against that third party and still get workers’ compensation.
Every situation is unique. It’s essential that you get the workers’ compensation you need to cover your medical care and other expenses. Don’t put off applying for the benefits to which you’re entitled. However, if you believe that your employer or another party should be held liable for your injury or illness, it’s important to have legal guidance.