To most people, the primary purpose of workers compensation law is to protect an employee from the costs of a workplace injury. And this is true, to an extent.
Workers comp also has a secondary purpose that few are aware of. It renders employers immune to a lawsuit by their injured employees.
To understand why this is, it helps to be aware of the origins of workers comp.
The History of Workers Compensation Law
There’s no sugar coating it – working conditions during the Industrial Revolution were horrible. Not only were workers treated cruelly, factory owners frequently subjected their employees to seriously unsafe conditions filled with numerous hazards and health dangers.
It was not uncommon for workers to be dismembered or even killed at work.
The lack of human rights was, quite frankly, horrifying. And when workers were injured on the job, their only recourse was to sue their employer. But going through a multi-year lawsuit while injured isn’t an easy task – especially when you need money for treatment now.
Thus, work accident law was born. In return for insuring workers against injury, employers are now shielded from most lawsuits. On one hand, workers can now receive compensation quicker. But on the other hand, workers comp may care about their bottom line more than an employee’s injury.
When It May Be Possible to Sue
Despite the protections offered to employers in worker’s comp insurance, they are not completely immune to lawsuits. There are a few instances where you may be able to pursue legal action.
Potential unlawful activity by your employer include:
1) Your employer intentionally hurt you.
Work injury law only applies to accidents or negligence. If you were injured maliciously by your employer, then that is grounds for legal action.
2) You were hurt by a product.
If you were injured due to a product defect, you may be able to sue the manufacturer. For example, if you were hurt after a tool or vehicle malfunctioned, you could sue that company instead.
3) You were wrongfully terminated or retaliated against.
It is unlawful to terminate or retaliate against an employee for filing a worker’s comp claim.
4) You were injured after being exposed to toxic substances.
Toxic substances are treated differently under injury law. If you were exposed, your employer could be held liable.
This is not an exhaustive list of exclusions. Some states have different exceptions which is why it’s important to consult with a workers comp lawyer as soon as possible. In Cincinnati, employees can’t recover pain & suffering through a worker’s comp. In some cases, workers can receive a significantly higher sum of money through a personal injury lawsuit instead of filing a claim through an employer.