The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) states that in 2014, there were nearly three million nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses reported by private industry employers, occurring at a rate of 3.2 cases per 100 full-time workers. There were also 4,679 workers who died on the job in 2014.
A workplace injury can bring life to a halt. Not only are you unable to work, but you may be facing significant medical costs, extended therapy, and an inability to return to work anytime soon. If your family is relying on you, it could put your entire home life at risk.
Most employers are required by law to carry workers’ compensation insurance. This pays for medical care, some of your wages while you’re recovering, and potentially the cost of any necessary retraining. Most workers compensation policies should also carry benefits to survivors for those who are killed on the job. There are many instances when this insurance falls far short of what is needed for a family to recover from an injury. As a result, people struggling to hold onto what was once theirs, such as houses they can no longer afford.
A workplace injury lawyer can help you examine all aspects of the case, revealing avenues of recovery you may not have been aware of, and helping to tap into other areas of potential compensation to fill in the gaps. If you or someone you loved was injured while on the job, call us. Let us be your advocate for recovery. We will look at your worker compensation benefits, but also look at filing a legal action in court against your employer and third parties, where you may be entitled to a much greater recovery.
What is a Workplace Injury?
Any time you are injured while on the job—whether it’s your fault or the employer’s—it is considered a workplace injury. Though there are a number of different ways employees can get hurt, here are some of the more common types of workplace injuries:
- Slip and fall injuries
- Ladder falls
- Struck by an object that falls or is dropped by someone else
- Fractures and broken bones
- Respiratory injuries
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Spinal cord injuries
- Chronic exposure to toxins/chemicals
- Cardiovascular, digestive, and other stress-related conditions
- Overexertion—pulling, lifting, pushing, etc.
- Transportation accidents
- Caught in large and dangerous machinery
- Repetitive motion injuries (back pain, vision problems, carpal tunnel)
- Assaults and violent acts
- Safety harness failures
Once the injury occurs, the employer is usually required to file a workers’ compensation claim or at least honor one filed by the employee. There are some exceptions.
When Workers’ Compensation Won’t Cover It
Independent contractors, for example, and railroad workers, are not covered by workers’ compensation laws, and must seek compensation by filing a workplace injury lawsuit. Other types of workers that may not be covered include those in domestic occupations (nannies, babysitters, caretakers, housekeepers), agricultural workers, volunteers, and seasonal workers. And federal employees are covered by a separate federal workers compensation statute.
In addition, if the workplace accident has any of the following characteristics, it may not be covered by workers’ compensation insurance:
- The injury occurred during a lunch break (unless it was in a company cafeteria or somehow involved the employer)
- The injury came from a pre-existing condition—the employee was already suffering, but that suffering got worse on the job
- The injury occurred while the employee was disregarding safety rules (varies by state)
- The injury occurred to an undocumented worker (this applies only in some states)
Though employees with workers’ comp can’t usually sue their employers, but there are exceptions, and each state has different laws in this regard.
When Can An Employee Sue an Employer?
When a company provides workers’ comp, they generally receive protection in the eyes of the law from defending personal injury claims. The system was set up this way so that employees could receive benefits no matter who was at fault (employee or employer) for the work-related accident.
Though the laws are strict, there are circumstances in which an employee can file an injury lawsuit against her employer because of a workplace injury. There is also the possibility that an injured party can file related lawsuits that can lead to additional compensation. These may include:
- Extreme negligence: If it can be proven that the employer was aware that the area you were working in was unsafe and violated industry standards, company policies, or regulations—and the employer intentionally exposed you to that unsafe area—you may be eligible to file a workplace injury lawsuit. Should this be found to be the case, the employer will lose the protection that workers’ comp usually provides. Examples include assault, battery, false imprisonment, fraud, defamation, invasion of privacy, and intentional infliction of emotional distress, and violation of safety standards.
- Inadequate workers’ compensation insurance: If you can show that the employer had inadequate coverage in its workers’ compensation insurance, you may be eligible to file a lawsuit against it.
- Problems with your workman’s comp claim: If your workers compensation claim is denied, your employer disputes it or harasses you about it, or your payments are late or short on the promised funds. In these situations, you may be able to go to court to get the compensation you deserve.
- Third-party negligence: If you can show that a third party was responsible or partially responsible for the injury, you may be eligible to file a workplace injury lawsuit against that party. (More on that below.)
Who Else May be Liable for a Workplace Injury?
There are many incidences in which a third party was either wholly or partially responsible for the accident that caused the injury. The following are some examples of when that may be the case:
- Product manufacturer: If a machine or other piece of equipment malfunctioned, causing the injury, the product manufacturer could be held liable, particularly if the evidence shows the product was defective or poorly designed. Some examples include heavy machinery, motor vehicles, power tools, or even simple tools, like ladders. This can also apply if you were injured by a toxic substance—you may be able to file a lawsuit against the manufacturer of that substance, if they failed to provide adequate safety warnings on the product label, for example. An example of this is mesothelioma from toxic asbestos exposure.
- Property owner: If you were working on someone else’s property when the accident occurred—another building or construction site, for instance—you may be able to file a lawsuit against the property manager. Some examples that may fit this scenario include icy sidewalks, broken stairways, uneven flooring, or other defects in the property itself that were not properly repaired or maintained.
- Sub-contractor: Many companies hire sub-contractors to carry out tasks that aren’t normally completed by employees. Cleaning companies, scaffolding companies, security firms, and more are often retained by employers. If these outside contractors were involved in your accident, they may be held liable for damages. Say the scaffolding company was guilty of a safety violation, for example, or a security firm got too rough with an employee during an altercation. You may be able to file a claim against them.
- Another driver: If you were injured while driving during or for work, and the accident was caused by someone else, you will likely be able to sue that person, the owner of the car, and perhaps the company they were working for, if they were on the job, too, at the time of the accident.
These are just some examples of potential third-party claims that an injured worker may have. Each accident is different, and there may be other parties involved.
How a Workplace Injury Lawyer Can Help
Determining who else besides your employer may be held accountable in a workplace injury case can be difficult. An experienced workplace injury attorney can help you complete a thorough investigation to find out exactly what happened to cause your injury, and if you are eligible to file a lawsuit against a third-party.
The good news about third-party lawsuits is that you can file them in addition to your workplace compensation claim. That means if you win your case, you could receive compensation in addition to your workers’ comp payments, which can help fill in the gaps in coverage workers’ comp often leaves. For example, you may be able to recover for pain and suffering, which is not typically recoverable under workers compensation statutes.
When you hire the workplace injury lawyer team at Chaffin Luhana, we conduct our own investigation to find all possible avenues of compensation. We can help you with your workers’ compensation claim, to make sure you are not hindered by any complications, and we can also guide you through your legal rights to sue a third party or the employer itself.
If you or a loved one suffered a workplace injury, contact the personal injury lawyers at Chaffin Luhana for help. We have the experience necessary to make sure you receive the full compensation you deserve.