Suing Your Employer
Every year, nearly 3 million workplace-related injuries and illnesses are reported. Some workplaces are more dangerous than others; laborers, nursing aides, orderlies, attendants, janitors/cleaners, heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers, and police and sheriff’s officers make up the majority of workplace-related injuries and illnesses. If you are injured at work in Atlanta, your treatment will usually be covered by your worker’s compensation insurance. If worker’s compensation does not cover your injury, a lawsuit may be the only way to receive compensation.
What is worker’s compensation?
Worker’s compensation is a system of insurance that protects both employees and employers. Employers pay for worker’s compensation, which is then administered by the state. If an employee is injured at work, they can receive payment for medical bills or other costs related to the injury through worker’s compensation. At the same time, the employer is protected against needing to defend itself from most lawsuits related to work-related injuries. Although worker’s compensation is often referred to as a catch-all for payment related to workplace injuries, in practice it covers a specific type and amount of expenses.
What can you claim from your employer under worker’s compensation?
Even in the case that the injury was caused by the employer of a fellow employee’s negligence, the employee is generally only able to seek remedies available through the worker’s compensation system in Georgia. These benefits do not compensate for pain and suffering; they are limited to medical bills, a portion of lost wages and some other expenses. If an employer does not carry worker’s compensation insurance, the injured employee may still be able to collect money from a state fund. Otherwise, the employee may need to sue in civil court to receive compensation.
What if the injury was caused by a third party?
If a third party like a contractor or on-site engineer (that is, not your employer or another employee) is the cause of your injury, you may be able to file a personal injury lawsuit. Known as a Third-Party Claim, this would also be the claim made if you were injured by a third party while driving the company car. In a personal injury lawsuit, the injured worker may be able to reclaim medical bills and lost wages, plus compensation for pain and suffering.
What if your employer purposefully injured you?
“Employer disregard” is when an employer injures an employee on purpose. For example, if a worker is injured in the course of a heated argument with their employer. Most states allow a worker to file a personal injury lawsuit in this situation; the 10 states that do not allow an employee to file a personal injury lawsuit in the case of employer disregard are Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, Maine, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia, and Wyoming. About a dozen states also allow a worker to sue outside the worker’s compensation system if the employer has done something grossly negligent or reckless, enough so that it is tantamount to intentional harm.
A workplace injury lawsuit may also come from injury caused by other unsafe conditions in the workplace. Employers are expected to adhere to the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) guidelines to reduce hazards and help ensure workplace safety. If you have concerns or complaints about the safety of your workplace, you can file those complaints with OSHA.
What if your injury was caused by other equipment or substances?
There are a few additional types of lawsuits related to workplace injuries. An employee injured by a defective piece of machinery or equipment, or equipment that is inherently dangerous and not properly warned for by the manufacturer, might be able to file a products liability lawsuit against the manufacturer. An injury caused by a toxic substance in the workplace, such as asbestos, benzene, silica, and radium may entitle the worker to file a toxic tort lawsuit against the manufacturer of that substance.
If you have been injured at work, the cause and circumstances of the injury will determine if a personal lawsuit is an option. Many work-related injuries and illnesses are covered by worker’s compensation insurance and are only eligible for the remedies available through that. If you are concerned or you think your injury is in one of the other categories, an expert attorney will help you determine if you can sue your employer and the best way to get your expenses and medical bills covered.