Workplace Injury: When Can You Sue Outside of Workers' Compensation?

ISTOCK IMAGE ID 12577690Many are under the impression that, if they are injured at work, there only option is to file for . However, it is important to be aware of the other options available to you when you are injured at work, since temporary disability and permanent disability payments are sometimes not substantial enough to cover things like pain and suffering. In addition, workers’ compensation may not be satisfactory because it does not provide punitive damages for your employer, who failed to provide safe working conditions. In reality, there are several situations where you may be able to seek compensationoutside of your employer’s workers’ compensation insurance.

If you were injured because of a toxic substance, you may have the option to bring a toxic tort lawsuit against the substance’s manufacturer. The chemicals that workers are exposed too can be toxic, and cause injuries and illnesses. Some employees have to work around asbestos, benzene, chromium compounds, silica, radium, or other harmful substances.

With toxic injuries, symptoms usually either appear immediately or over time. When an injury appears immediately, it is called an acute injury, which may include chemical burns or poisonings. Latent injuries, meaning injuries that appear after a long period of time, include cancers and lung disease. Latent injuries may be harder to prove because they can take years to appear, though it is not impossible. You may also want to file a complaint with OSHA about unsafe substances in your workplace.

If you were injured by a defective product, you may be able to bring a product liability suit against the product’s manufacturer. Because of product liability, the manufacturer may be liable if the worker was injured by a defective piece of equipment, or if the equipment failed to work properly or is dangerous by design. If the manufacturer is found liable, they would have to compensate the worker for medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering.

If you were injured because of your employers unreasonable or intentional behavior, you may be able to bring a personal injury lawsuit against your employer. In some cases, workers can sue outside of workers’ compensation if the employer intentionally injures the employee. Also, if the employer’s extreme negligence cause the worker’s injury, there may be grounds to sue. For instance, if an employer ignores federal safety guidelines and does not provide employees with safety equipment, and the worker is injured, the employer’s negligence could be considered tantamount to intentional harm. Also, if you were injured at work by a third party, you could receive compensation if you file a personal injury lawsuit against the person who caused your injury.

You may be able to sue your employer in civil court and collect money from a state fund if your employer does not have workers’ compensation insurance. Though you could receive more money than you would with worker’s compensation, you would have to prove in civil court that the employer was at fault for your injury, which is not necessary when receiving workers’ compensation. Additionally, California has a fund called the Uninsured Employers Benefits trust fund, which provides benefits to injured workers of uninsured companies.


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