When Actions By Your Employer or a Third Party Allow You to Go to Court
(Page 2 of 2 of Workplace Injury: When You Can Sue Outside of Workers' Compensation)
Sometimes the actions of your employer or a third party allow you to go to court. Below are more situations when you might be able to sue in court for your workplace injuries.
If Your Employer's Conduct Is Intentional or Egregious
In many, but not all, states, if an employer hurts an employee on purpose, the employee can sue the employer for damages that exceed what the employee would receive through workers' compensation.
While most states allow an employee to sue under these circumstances, the following states do not allow this type of lawsuit: Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, Maine, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia, and Wyoming. Also, the federal government does not allow its employees to sue in these circumstances.
In about a dozen states, an employee can sue outside of the workers' compensation system if the employer does something that's grossly negligent or reckless that injures the employee. The idea is that the employer's conduct is so egregious that it is tantamount to intentional harm.
In very rare circumstances, some states will allow employees to sue if a supervisor or another employee (rather than the actual employer) causes the harm. These states allow the lawsuit if the employer told the supervisor or employee what to do.
If you think that your injury is the result of intentional or egregious conduct by your employer, consider talking to a personal injury or employment law attorney about your rights. For help on choosing a good personal injury attorney, read Nolo's article Finding a Personal Injury Lawyer.
If Your Employer Does Not Have Workers' Compensation Insurance
If your employer is uninsured, then you have the option of suing your employer in civil court for your injuries. Although this gives you the opportunity to get more money than the workers' compensation system provides, you will also have the burden of proving that the employer was at fault in causing your injury, something that employees don't have to do when they get money and benefits from the workers' compensation system. In addition, some states, such as California, have a fund that provides benefits to the injured workers of uninsured companies. In California, the fund is called the Uninsured Employer's Benefits trust fund.
To sort out your legal rights if your employer is uninsured, talk to an experienced workers' compensation attorney in your state.
If a Third Party Injures You
Sometimes when an employee is injured on the job, the fault lies not with the employer or with a dangerous substance or machine, but with another person. In such a case, the employee might be able to sue that person for damages.
If a third party's intentional or negligent conduct caused your injury, talk to a personal injury attorney about your rights. For help on choosing a good personal injury attorney, read Nolo's article Finding a Personal Injury Lawyer. Or you can go to Nolo's Lawyer Directory for a list of personal injury attorneys in your geographical area (click the "Types of Cases" and "Work History" tabs to learn about a particular lawyer's experience, if any, with workers' compensation and workplace injury claims).
1 | 2