Workers’ compensation insurance protects employers against getting sued for a workplace accident, but injured employees may have options to hold their employers accountable in certain circumstances. Understanding these instances helps employees protect their rights in a workplace accident and the aftermath, particularly if negligence was present and workers’ compensation coverage is insufficient.
Intentional Conduct of an Employer
If a worker is injured on the job due to the intentional conduct of the employer, and that conduct was directly responsible for the injury, the worker may have the right to sue. In these cases, work injures are not due to normal risks of the job. Instead, the injuries are due to the negligence of the employer. To make this type of case, the worker must have direct proof that the intentional conduct of the employer was the cause of the injury. If such proof exists, then the employer may be liable for the injuries.
Gross Negligence on the Employer’s Part
Another circumstance where an employee may be able to sue for a workplace injury is in the case of gross negligence. In the employer/employee relationship, the employer has responsibilities to each worker, including the responsibility to create a safe workplace. Neglecting those responsibilities creates an ethical problem that can leave the employer liable.
Some, but not all, states allow employees to sue employers if the employer was negligent of the duties to employees. For instance, if an employer overlooked OSHA guidelines and allowed the workplace to become unsafe, employees may be able to file injury claims against the employer.
Contractor or Subcontractor Relationship
If an injury on the job occurs because of a relationship between the employer and a contractor or subcontractor, and the contractor or subcontractor caused the injury or accident, the employer may ultimately be found liable. This particular kind of case can be complex because proving this link requires a substantial amount of evidence. However, if a clear link exists, it can be grounds for a lawsuit.
Lack of Workers’ Compensation Insurance
If the employer does not carry workers’ compensation insurance, which goes against state law, and an employee gets injured on the job, then the liability falls on the employer in most cases. Employers have a legal obligation to carry sufficient insurance. Failure to do so puts them in violation of the law, which can lead to legal repercussions. Some states have a fund for employees who face this type of scenario. In these cases, the employee may not be able to file a lawsuit.
Statute of Limitations Rules Still Apply
In each of these scenarios, employees may have the right to file a lawsuit, but they must do so in a timely manner. Every state has a statute of limitations, which is a specific time frame in which an injured party can file a claim against another party. Failure to file within that time frame may make it impossible for an injured employee to seek compensation for his or her injuries. The statute of limitations varies by state.