The purpose of a Workers Compensation claim is to ensure that employees who become injured on the job can be reimbursed for those injuries, without having to resort to the courts. The way the system works, is that the injured employee receives compensation for the work-related injuries and agrees not to file a legal action against the employer. The employee is not required to prove negligence or liability in order to be compensated for his injuries; making it essentially a no-fault system. But, what happens if you file a lawsuit anyway?
Workers Compensation is an exclusive remedy
Before this system was put into place, an employee’s only remedy was to file a lawsuit, which required proof of damages. Now, nearly all employees are automatically entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. Likewise, the employer is automatically protected from lawsuits based on the employee’s injury.
Basically, Worker’s Compensation benefits are meant to be a substitute for filing a lawsuit against the employer. In other words, if you accept workers’ compensation benefits, you waive your right to file a lawsuit.
Can I sue my employer anyway?
If you are not covered by workers’ compensation, meaning you are not eligible for workers’ compensation benefits, you can bring a civil claim against your employer for your injuries. Also, if the injuries you sustained at work were the result of someone’s intentional conduct, you may be able to bring an action. Depending on the circumstances of your injury, you may also have claims against someone other than your employer.
Lawsuits against third-parties
Even if you file a workers’ compensation claim, you may still be able to bring a lawsuit against someone other than your employer. For example, if you were injured by a defective product, such as a piece of equipment that malfunctioned, you may be able to seek compensation from the manufacturer. In those situations, the employer is not typically involved in the suit.
Now, in most situations, the employer will be able to recoup the workers’ compensation payments that were made, from any recovery the injured worker obtains from his or her third-party lawsuit.
Workers’ Compensation coverage
Workers’ compensation coverage varies from one state to the next. For instance, many states consider certain categories of workers exempt from workers’ compensation coverage. Agricultural employees, domestic employees and independent contractors, are typical examples of exempted employees. Other states require coverage only for employers who have a minimum number of employees.
If you have questions regarding workers’ compensation requirements, or any other workers’ compensation issues, call the Cottrell Law Office at (888) 433-4861.
He is licensed to practice law in the United States District Court for the District of Kansas, eastern Arkansas, western Arkansas, and western Missouri. He was Deputy Prosecuting Attorney in Crawford County, Kansas from 1987-1989.
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