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Accepted a job as Sales Manager for tech hardware company. Injured on the job due to responsibilities outside of job description

Seattle, WA |

Took on a job as sales manager for a company formed in Washington state to sell electronics equipment of a parent company located overseas. Due to some changes in the way the business is run, the parent company began to ship inventory to our Seattle office where we had to repack on daily basis 25-40lbs boxes and ship it out to our customers. We were doing this ourselves in a administrative building that has no commercial/industrial space and even ended up being asked by our landlord to move out of this office. This has gone on for almost a year and our parent company has been falsely saying that they are in the process of hiring a shipping/receiving manager. In the process one of the employees has injured his knee and the other has injured his back. Do they have a L&I case on their hands?

Attorney Answers 3

Posted

The general principle of law is that an employee who is injured in the course and scope of his employment is entitled to benefits under the worker's compensation law. As a general principle of law, those benefits are employee's EXCLUSIVE remedy with respect to employer. Generally speaking, worker's compensation laws tend to require employee to notify employer of the injury as soon as practicable, and employer then notifies the applicable state agency as well as its worker's compensation insurance carrier.

The deal with worker's compensation is that all the employee has to prove is that s/he suffered injury in the course and scope of his employment. S/he doesn't have to prove the employer's negligent breach of a duty, the way it used to be. The employer has to pay for the worker's compensation benefits, but gets immunity from suit. That's the worker's compensation bargain: Worker's burden is low to prove entitlement to benefits; Employer's must fund benefits, but gets immunity from suit.

(There are some rare statutory exceptions to this rule, applicable to employers who are derelict in their responsibility to provide worker's compensation benefits.)

The worker's compensation bargain represents a big improvement over the previous state of affairs, where even the smallest bit of negligence barred an employee's recovery ("contributory negligence"), where the participation of a co-worker in the circumstances leading to the injury could bar the employee's recovery ("the fellow-servant rule"), and where the employee could be deemed to have assumed the risk that he would be injured ("assumption of the risk"). "Contributory negligence," "assumption of the risk," and "the fellow-servant rule" -- sometimes called "the unholy trio of the common law" -- made it almost impossible for employees to recover from their employers for work-related injuries. But the advent of worker's compensation laws changed all that.

So I think what you are telling us is that workers were injured in the course and scope of their employment. General rule is that workers injured in the course and scope of employment are entitled to benefits under the worker's compensation law, and those benefits are the exclusive remedy of those employees with respect to employer.

Not legal advice, just general principles. I don't practice law in Washington or hold licensure there. If you need legal advice, please consult Washington counsel. I practice in Vermont ONLY.

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Posted

Yes. If an employee is injured in the course of employment, there is typically an available claim to be made for benefits under Washington's industrial insurance statutes (L&I). If the work was being performed at the direction of the employer, then the injured workers likely qualify to make a claim.

Encourage your colleagues to contact a local worker's compensation attorney to discuss the scope of any potential claim.

Benjamin Nivison is an attorney licensed to practice law in Washington State. This communication does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and Mr. Nivison, nor does it constitute specific advice for your particular legal matter. The information provided in this communication is for general reference and informational purposes only, and therefore should not be relied on as legal advice. Legal issues are by their nature complex, and any person with a legal question should fully consult with a qualified attorney.

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Posted

Genereally, the exclusive remedy for on-the-job injuries is through the worker's compensation system, assuming there is no separate third party action and your question does not refer to such. It is of no factual consequence that the employer was not properly equipped with commercial or industrial space to handle the repack duties. The claims you described will most likely fall under the Industrial Insurance Act.

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