If you have heard stories from friends and acquaintances who had difficulty getting medical care after a workplace accident, or if you would prefer to sue your employer in court and collect damages for pain and suffering, you may wonder if there is an alternative to putting in a Worker compensation claim. Unfortunately, in most cases, there isn’t an alternative. Worker compensation is designed to be a quick, no-fault system that reimburses all injured workers partially. But it is also the only recourse if you have been injured at work and you want to sue your employer or use your own doctor.
There are exceptions to this rule. First, if your employer was not covered by Worker compensation insurance, then you may be able to use the general court system. However, if your employer was a subcontractor and the general contractor was covered, then you may have to put in a claim with the general contractor’s insurer.
You may also be able to sue if you can argue that the employer’s conduct was “virtually certain to result in injury or death,” or that another employee committed an intentional tort (for example, the other worker hit you on purpose) or committed gross negligence. This is a very hard standard to meet, but if the facts are truly egregious, then occasionally a court makes an exception and allows the injured employee to sue.
Finally, Worker compensation only covers injuries caused by the employer or a fellow employee. If you were injured in an auto accident, you can sue the other driver and the owner of the car for damages, even if you were on the clock or doing the employer’s business at the time of the accident. If a piece of machinery caused your injury, you may be able to sue the company that made it for designing or manufacturing a defective product.
If you think that your circumstances may place you within one of the exceptions to workers compensation coverage, it is very important that you consult an attorney immediately. If you are in fact covered and you do not report your accident within 30 days, you may be barred from collecting any damages at all for your injuries.