Construction worker tending to another construction worker that is injured.

Is Workers’ Comp My Only Option for a Work-Related Injury?

Pursuing Compensation for Work-Related Injuries

As defined by The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), an injury or illness is considered to be work-related if "an event or exposure in the work environment either caused or contributed to the resulting condition or significantly aggravated a pre-existing injury or illness."

While most workers who are injured on the job understand that they are entitled to file a workers' compensation claim for their work-related illnesses and injuries, many do not know that certain circumstances qualify them to pursue a third-party claim for personal injuries that are NOT covered through workers' compensation.

This blog will explain the difference between a workers' compensation claim and a work-related personal injury claim, as well as the scenarios in which a personal injury claim may be applied to a work-related accident.

Workers' Compensation vs. Personal Injury Claims

Although Rouda Feder Tietjen & McGuinn does not serve on workers' compensation cases, it's essential for those filing a workers' compensation claim to understand the difference between filing a workers' compensation claim and a personal injury claim for a workplace accident. Here's what you need to know.

Employer Requirements

In California, employers are required to carry workers' compensation insurance, even if they only have one employee. Workers' compensation covers an employee for injuries sustained in an accident on the job or becomes sick concerning their job duties.

Workers' compensation insurance also protects employers from lawsuits against them. However, there are some exceptions, and an employee may pursue additional compensation through a personal injury claim.

Read on to learn more about suing third parties for a workplace injury.

How "Fault" Plays a Role

The primary difference between workers' compensation claims and personal injury claims is "fault." When injured on the job while going about work-related duties, it's not necessary to prove that anyone, such as your employer or co-workers, was at fault for receiving workers' compensation benefits. Regardless of who is at fault for your workplace injury (yourself or someone else), you are still entitled to file a workers' compensation claim.

In a personal injury claim, it's necessary to prove negligence and that another party or entity was responsible for causing the injury or illness. Typically, in a personal injury claim related to a workplace accident, it must be proved that a third party was at fault or acted with negligence and caused your injuries. Although you cannot sue your employer or co-worker directly, you can sue a third party, such as a contractor or subcontractor.

In short, workers' compensation protects employers and co-workers from being sued in workplace injury cases; however, there are some exceptions:

  • Your employer intentionally caused harm or death to their employees.
  • Your employer failed to carry workers' compensation insurance or wasn't required to have workers' compensation.

If a contractor is not licensed, the property owner could be sued if your injury occurred on their premises.

Workplace Accidents and Civil Suits

When filing a civil suit, you can claim additional compensation for medical expenses, pain, and suffering as well as lost wages when your employer was involved in the following negligent conduct:

Your Employer Displayed Intentional and Egregious Conduct

If an employer intentionally harms an employee, the employee can sue for damages in a civil suit. Although filing a workers' compensation claim typically stops an employee from pursuing civil action, when an employer acts egregiously that causes an employee to become injured or sick, the employee is eligible to file a civil claim against their employer. In a suit that involves malicious or egregious acts, the employee must prove that the injuries sustained resulted from their intentional conduct.

You Were Injured By Exposure to a Toxic Substance

As per OSHA standards, employers are required by law to keep their employees protected from harm and injury. When employers do not follow safety laws, they are in breach of their duty when workers are exposed to toxic chemicals.

Some of the most common toxic chemicals found in the workplace are:

  • Benzene
  • Asbestos
  • Silica
  • Chromium
  • Radium

When employees are exposed to toxic chemicals and become sick or injured as a result, they may sue their employers directly and circumvent workers' compensation. The employee must prove that the injuries sustained were due to negligence and the employer intentionally exposed them to harmful chemicals. The employee may also be entitled to punitive damages. Punitive damages are additional compensation awarded to the employee as a punishment for the employer's negligent behavior or conduct for harming the employee.

You Were Injured by a Defective Product

In many industries, employees must use certain products and tools to get the job done.

If an employee is provided with defective tools that cause them injuries, they can pursue a claim outside the workers' compensation scope. It must be proved that the employer knew the product was defective or failed to repair it for safe use or did not dispose of a defective product and left it available for employees to use. In some cases, the employee may also pursue a product liability suit against the manufacturer and ask to recover damages such as lost wages, medical expenses, and pain and suffering.

You Were Injured By a Third Party

If you were injured by a co-worker or third party (such as a contractor or subcontractor), you may be entitled to sue. The employee must prove the following in a third-party lawsuit for a workplace injury:

  • The employer was aware of the third party's violent nature.
  • The employer took no action to terminate the employee who caused harm.
  • The employee failed to take action to protect workers from the third party's reckless conduct.

Steps to Take in Pursuing a Workplace Injury Lawsuit

There will be a lien on third-party recovery when it comes to dual claims (a workers' comp claim and a third party claim together). While this can be negotiated down in a few ways, such as employer fault and attorney fees, it's critical to have an experienced personal injury attorney on your side to negotiate on your behalf to ensure maximum compensation.

When you've been injured on the job and are unsure if you are entitled to pursue a personal injury claim against your employer, it's critical to consult a skilled attorney who has handled these types of claims.

Our experience with workplace personal injury claims secured a $58 million lawsuit judgment on behalf of an injured worker who sustained a permanent debilitating brain injury when an uninsured contractor dropped a 20 to 30 lb. tree limb on our client's head from nearly 20-feet high. We want to help you receive the compensation you deserve.

If you or a loved one has sustained a work-related injury due to negligence, we can help. Our team of attorneys is passionate about receiving justice for our clients. We are prepared to fight for your right to pursue compensation for your injuries.

Workplace Injury Attorneys in San Francisco

At Rouda Feder Tietjen & McGuinn, we have extensive experience in protecting the rights of victims who have been harmed in the workplace against the interests of large entities and their insurers. We're passionate about recovering the damages our clients deserve so they can receive the medical treatments necessary following a devastating work accident.

Contact Rouda Feder Tietjen & McGuinn today at (415) 940-7176 to schedule a free consultation and learn your rights.