Under most circumstances, you cannot sue your employer or a co-worker if you sustain an on-the-job injury or contract a work-related illness. Why? Because each state has its own set of workers’ compensation laws, and many states require you to file claims for your work-related injuries and illnesses. In other words, workers’ comp is often your exclusive remedy for receiving compensation to cover your medical bills and a portion of your lost wages caused by your illness or injury.
Workers’ compensation laws, however, vary from state to state, as do the laws regarding personal injury lawsuits. Therefore, depending on which state you live in, you may be able to directly sue your employer or the co-worker who caused your injury or illness under certain quite limited circumstances. If so, you may be able to file this personal injury suit in lieu of or possibly in addition to filing a workers’ comp claim.
Likely Lawsuit Circumstances
In general, some of the circumstances under which you likely can file a personal injury lawsuit against your employer or the co-worker who caused your injury or illness include the following:
- Your employer has insufficient workers’ comp insurance to cover your medical bills and lost wages.
- Your employer or co-worker intentionally injured you.
- Your employer or co-worker injured you while he or she was under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
- Your employer or co-worker injured you while he or she was violating one of your company’s policies.
- Your employer or co-worker injured you because of your race, color, ethnicity, religion, gender or another protected category to which you belong.
The amount of damages you can recover differs widely between a workers’ compensation claim and a personal injury lawsuit.
In general, workers’ comp pays for the following:
- Emergency room care
- Prescription medications
- Doctors’ visits
- Physical and occupational rehabilitation
- Medical equipment
- Pain therapies
It also pays a portion of your lost income if your illness or injury leaves you temporarily or permanently partially or totally disabled.
In a personal injury lawsuit, on the other hand, you can expect to recover the full amount of your medical bills, both current and future, plus the full amount of your lost income, both current and future. In addition, you can recover noneconomic damages, such as for the following:
- Pain and suffering
- Mental and emotional anguish
- Disfiguring scarring
- Loss of your enjoyment of life
Your wisest strategy whenever you sustain a work-related injury or illness is to consult with an experienced local workers’ compensation lawyer as soon as possible. This is especially true if your employer or a co-worker caused it. Your attorney can advise you of all your options and how to proceed. If you have questions about a workers compensation case contact a workers compensation attorney, like the offices of Hurwitz, Whitcher & Molloy, Attorneys at Law for a consultation.