Ask the Attorneys:
Can Workers Sue While Collecting Workers Compensation?
You have probably heard the “general rule” that if you have been injured at work, the only compensation you can receive is workers’ compensation! In fact, employers are often quick to tell an injured employee that worker’s comp is their “exclusive remedy” and that they cannot also bring a law suit.
In many situations the “general rule” that Workers’ Comp is your exclusive remedy is true. However, there are notable exceptions when you MAY be able to sue for damages caused by injuries or illnesses that were sustained in the workplace.
This is important to understand, because workers’ compensation temporary disability and permanent disability payments are usually lower than you would receive in a lawsuit – and may not provide enough for you to live on. Additionally, workers’ compensation does NOT provide compensation for pain and suffering, and does not provide “punitive damages” to punish an employer for an unsafe or dangerous work environment.
When You Can Sue While Getting Workers’ Compensation:
(1.) If you were Injured at Work by a Defective Product
If you were injured at work by a defective product, you might be able to bring a “products liability” law suit against the manufacturer of the product.
For example, if a machine or piece of equipment is defective or inherently dangerous, the manufacturer of the machine or equipment may be sued for an employee’s injury –under certain circumstances – even if the employee is collecting workers’ compensation. If the manufacturer knew of the danger to employees, or did not provide proper warning of the product’s danger, the manufacturer may have to compensate the worker for medical bills, lost wages, and even pain and suffering under some circumstances.
If you were injured by a defective product at work, call our experienced Long Beach Workers’ Compensation lawyers for a free consultation to understand your legal rights.
(2.) If You were Injured at Work by a Toxic Substance
Chemicals and other substances that workers use – such as toluene, asbestos, benzene, chromium, and radium – can be toxic and cause severe injury or illness. Workers are often successful in bringing lawsuits – “called “toxic torts” – for this type of injury, even if they are also collecting Workers’ Compensation.
When an employee is made ill or injured by a toxic substance, they can typically sue the manufacturer of the toxic substance – as well as manufacturers of safety equipment that was ineffective in protecting them from the toxic substance. Collecting Workers Compensation benefits does NOT prevent a worker from bringing this type of lawsuit against a manufacturer.
For example, workers who suffer from asbestosis or mesothelioma – from exposure in the workplace to asbestos – almost always succeed in lawsuits.
If you were injured or made ill at work by a toxic substance, call our experienced Long Beach Workers’ Compensation lawyers for a free consultation to understand your legal rights.
(3.) If Your Employer’s Conduct Is Intentional or Reckless
In most states (but not all), an employee can sue an employer if he/she hurts the employee either “on purpose” (intentionally) or as the result of behavior that is so reckless (egregious or grossly negligent) that injury was likely.
In these cases the employee can sue the employer for damages that exceed any benefits that the worker would receive through workers’ compensation.
An example of “intentional” conduct might be an injury sustained when an employer became angry and pushed an employee causing them to suffer a head injury. The employee could sue for damages – in addition to workers’ compensation – because the employer intentionally hurt him.
An example of a “grossly negligent” or “egregious” behavior might be an injury sustained when an employee was required to work in an underground tunnel that collapses on him – because the employer ignored safety regulations and did not reinforce the tunnel walls as he should have. In this case the worker may be able to sue for damages beyond his workers’ compensation benefits because the employer’s conduct was so “egregious” or “reckless”.
If you were injured in the workplace by your employers’ negligence, call our experienced Long Beach Workers’ Compensation lawyers for a free consultation to understand your legal rights.
(4.) If Your Employer Does Not Have Workers’ Compensation Insurance
In California, there is a special fund in place that offers benefits to injured employees of companies who do not have Workers’ Compensation insurance. This fund is called the Uninsured Employer’s Benefits Trust Fund.
However, if you are injured or made ill at work, and your employer is uninsured, you may also have the right to sue the employer in civil court for damages related to your injuries. This would include suing him/her for medical bills, lost wages and even pain and suffering.
However, suing an employer in civil court can be difficult. With Workers Compensation benefits an employee does not have to prove that the employer was “at fault” for the injury. They only have to prove that they were made ill or disabled as a result of work. But, when bringing a civil action, the employee has the burden of proving that the employer was actually “at fault” in causing the injury.
If you were injured at work, and your employer does not have workers’ compensation insurance, our lawyers can help. Call our experienced Long Beach Workers’ Compensation lawyers for a free consultation to understand your legal rights.
Best Long Beach Workers’ Compensation Lawyers
If you have been disabled and you live in Long beach, Orange County, the greater Los Angeles area or anywhere in Southern California, we offer a free consultation with an experienced Workers Compensation lawyer to help you understand your rights and obtain the maximum workers’ compensation or disability benefits. No matter what stage of the process you are in, our skilled and caring lawyers are here to offer you free advice and assist you in getting the maximum benefits for which you qualify.