I’ve Been Injured at Work… Can I Sue?
In the past, employers were not legally obligated to provide protections to injured employees. If an employee was injured on the job, they were not protected in any way from losing their job and there were no legal provisions that provided compensation for medical expenses or treatments. Over the time span from 1911 to 1948, all fifty states passed laws providing workers with medical and wage replacement benefits for injured workers. The laws were, and are, set up in a manner that states that when injured employees accepted compensation benefits, they forfeit their right to sue the employer. Workers’ compensation is essentially an insurance plan that protects both the employee and the employer.
So the short answer is, “No.” If you are injured in your day to day activities on the job. Most workplaces present certain unavoidable aspects of danger. As a result, employers who provide workers compensation benefits to their employees and employees who receive those benefits are recognizing that likely inevitability and are entering into an agreement together that provides protections for both parties.
However, there is a caveat to this issue. Even under the workers compensation laws, you can bring an injury lawsuit against your employer if your injury is the result of a very negligent act by your employer. So what might constitute a negligent act? Consider the following:
Employers have a reasonable responsibility to screen potential employees. This not simply for the company’s productivity, but is also a means whereby employers can ensure both the safety of their current employees and potential employees.
Like the above mentioned responsibility to screen potential employees, employers have the responsibility to refrain from continuing to employ those who present a possibility for harm to themselves or to others on the job. If an employee is known to be dangerous or negligent, then the employer has the responsibility to handle the situation for the sake of all the employees.
Employers have a responsibility to train employees to perform their expected tasks. Failure to properly train employees presents a danger to the employee and those that they work around. If an employer fails to properly train new-hires, they risk responsibility for any injuries they may sustain.
Employers who do not properly supervise employees in regards to safety protocols or who routinely overlook safety violations can be regarded as negligent and responsible for injuries.
If you’ve been injured on the job and have received compensation benefits, but it can be established that your employer was negligent in some way that may have contributed to that injury, talk to a lawyer and explore your legal options.