There is a common misconception that if a person gets hurt when they are at work, then they can’t sue their employer and they must accept worker’s compensation benefits. As a result, many injured parties never attempt to call a lawyer to find out if they can sue someone for injuries they sustained on the job and they lose the opportunity.
The Rule: Workers’ compensation insurance was created to protect both the employer and employee. In exchange for purchasing workers’ compensation insurance, business owners are protected from civil suits from their workers who become injured on the job, but at the same time the employer needs to provide medical expenses, lost wages, and rehabilitation costs to employees who are injured or become ill “in the course and scope” of their job, and death benefits to families of employees who are killed on the job.
The Exceptions: What I can assure you is that this body of law is very complicated with many rules, but there are also many exceptions.
- Third Party Claims – You are employed as a store manager and protected by Worker’s Compensation Laws. In the middle of your shift, you go outside into the parking lot to get something out of your car, and fall in a pothole in the parking lot. The parking lot may be separately owned by another company, and you would be able to get your worker’s compensation benefits AND file a suit against the parking lot owner.
- Depends on When Your Accident Happened – if your accident happens before you start your job, or after you clock out, or while you were at lunch, you may not be covered under worker’s compensation
- You are Not Really an Employee – not all workers are employees when it comes to workers’ compensation eligibility. In particular, independent contractors (like freelancers and consultants) are exempt. One example in the news now that is still being debated is whether Uber and Lyft drivers are employees or independent contractors
- Employer Didn’t Have the Insurance – New York State mandates that a business have this insurance. An employer who fails to do so can face severe and costly repercussions, including payment of claims out of pocket, fines and possible imprisonment, and you may be able to then sue your employer.
- You are an Exempt Worker: Every state has certain jobs that are exempt – common ones are housekeepers, gardeners, farm workers, a temp. from a staffing agency, etc.
There are no guarantees that you will be in one of these exceptions, but there is no harm in calling a personal injury lawyer to find out your rights.