Written by attorney James Mitchell Hoffmann

Workers’ Compensation - When Can You Sue?

When you are injured at work, the compensation you can receive is usually limited to workers compensation benefits, which cover medical expenses, and lost wages, but not pain and suffering. However, there are some exceptions where you can sue for damages. It is important to understand your rights and what sorts of recourse you have when you are injured on the job.

Situations in Which You May Be Able to Sue for Damages

  • Defective Product - If you were injured by a defective product, you may be able to sue the manufacturer of the product in a products liability suit. If a product is inherently dangerous or failed to work properly because of a defect, the manufacturer should be held responsible for your injury, especially if they failed to issue a proper warning about the danger in the product. If a product or device is unsafe but you are still required by your employer to use it in your work, you should file a complaint with the Department of Labor’s Occupational Health and Safety Administration.

  • You may be able to bring a personal injury lawsuit against a third party who caused your accident or injury.

  • In some cases you can bring a personal injury lawsuit against your employer if you were injured because of his or her egregious or intentional conduct. Some states allow you to sue your employer if he or she intentionally hurt you. In these states you can sue for damages in addition to what you receive from workers’ compensation.

  • If you were injured because of exposure to a toxic substance, you may be able to bring a toxic tort lawsuit against the manufacturer of the toxic substance. Injuries due to toxic substances like asbestos, benzene, chromium compounds, silica, and radium, can be grounds for filing a toxic tort lawsuit against the substance manufacturers.

  • If your employer does not have workers compensation insurance at all, you can sue your employer in civil court. Having workers compensation insurance protects employers from employees taking civil action against them. Failing to have workers comp insurance may be a violation of state law and your employer can incur hefty fines. Some states have a fund that employees whose employers are uninsured can collect workers comp benefits from.

Know Your Rights

Knowing your rights is very important. Workers compensation is usually sufficient to compensate you for your injuries, get you the treatment that you need in order to recover, and get you back to work. But when it comes to temporary and permanent disability, workers compensation oftentimes is not enough. It does not provide compensation for pain and suffering or punish an employer with punitive damages when work conditions were dangerous or there were poor safety controls.

Discussing your case with a workers compensation lawyer if you wish to take your case outside of the workers compensation system is crucial. An attorney can help you to determine what will be appropriate in your particular situation and if there are additional government benefits you can obtain like Social Security disability insurance.

To find out more about what is appropriate for your situation, contact a workers’ compensation attorney.

Additional resources provided by the author

If you have been injured on the job in Missouri and have questions about your legal options contact the Law Office of James M. Hoffmann at (314) 361-4300.

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