If you're injured at work, is your only recourse a workers' compensation claim? Not necessarily. Under a number of circumstances, you do have other options. Quite often, it's possible to file a personal injury lawsuit rather than rely solely on workers' compensation. Here are three examples.
1.) Your employer displays gross negligence or an intentional disregard for employee safety.
Most of the time, an employer's negligence doesn't matter - in fact, that's part of what workers' compensation benefits are designed to cover. So, normally you can't file a personal injury suit due to ordinary negligence.
However, when your employer's conduct is clearly without regard to your safety - or even intentional - that opens up an exception to the rule.
For example, in a recent incident at an amusement park, an employee collapsed and was injured due to the extreme heat. His employer hadn't implemented any plans to look after the safety of the teenaged worker, who was laboring over a hot grill in direct sunlight on an already hot day. Given the known dangers of heat-related illness, that employer could easily be seen as grossly negligent.
2.) You were injured by a defective machine or a toxic substance used on the job.
Workers end up injured by defective machinery and toxic substances all the time. Often, there's no way for anyone to even tell that the machines are defective until a safety bar breaks or a kill switch doesn't work and someone gets injured.
The toxic substances are rarely thought to be dangerous - until years later when employees become ill with lung diseases, cancer, and other problems. Many factory workers were injured over the years through exposure to asbestos, for example - which was thought to be perfectly safe for a long time.
Generally speaking, those situations wouldn't allow you to direct a personal injury lawsuit at your employer. Instead, your case would be against the manufacturer of the defective or toxic items. You would still be able to collect workers' compensation, however, from your employer.
3.) You were injured through the negligence of a third party while at work.
In many cases, people get injured while on the job through the negligence of somebody other than their employers.
For example, imagine that you work at a fast food restaurant and part of your job requires you to take out the trash several times a day to the dumpster, located at the end of the parking lot. If a customer comes flying through the parking lot, in a hurry to beat someone else to the drive-up window, and hits you with his car, the customer could then be sued for your injuries.
There are some distinct advantages to filing a personal injury lawsuit over just accepting workers' compensation for your workplace injuries. Workers' compensation benefits are highly restrictive, and only provide for part of your lost income. It pays nothing for your pain and suffering. A personal injury suit can help you recover for the remainder of your losses and compensate you for the pain you've endured as a result of your accident. Talk to an experienced personal injury attorney for more info on this topic.
My husband does much of our auto repair work himself. We do all that we can to save a dollar when we can, and doing the repair work saves us a small fortune each year. Unfortunately, all of the money that we have saved over the past 15 years has gone to pay the medical bills that we have accumulated during the last several months after a floor jack failed and dropped our car on top of my husband. A few days after the incident, I contacted an injury attorney. I have created a blog to help others that have been injured due to faulty products find some sort of resolution.