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Can You Sue Your Employer if You Suffer a Work Injury?

Posted by Foster Law on April 20, 2015

There's no denying it, some workplaces are just plain hazardous. Every year, over 2.5 million work-related injuries and illnesses are reported.

Typically, workplace injuries and illnesses are covered by the employer's workers' compensation insurance, but sometimes they are not. So can you sue your employer for a workplace injury?

Workers' Compensation

Workers' compensation is intended to protect employees who are injured at work and to protect employers from having to defend themselves against work-related injury lawsuits. Employees receive disbursements for medical costs for a workplace injury or illness without the costly alternative of suing their employers. Workers' compensation is paid for by employers and administered by each individual state.

What workers' compensation pays for in Washington State

  • Approved medical, hospital and related services due to workplace injuries.
  • Compensation for those who are temporarily unable to work full-time.

Even if a worker is hurt due to an employer's negligence or another employee, the law usually restricts the worker to remedies available under the workers' compensation guidelines. These benefits are limited and only cover a portion of medical bills, lost wages and a few other expenses, they do not pay for pain and suffering.

Washington State requires employers to carry worker's compensation insurance, except for owners of sole proprietorships and other businesses without employees are not required to have workers' compensation insurance.

Under the no-fault workers' compensation system, an employee that is hurt on the job doesn't have to prove the employer was negligent; the injury alone is enough to file a workers' compensation claim. In return, employees who suffer a workplace injury give up the right to sue their employers.

An employer's failure to carry workers' compensation insurance puts him at risk to pay substantial fines and penalties, but it does give an injured employee the right to sue. A lawsuit allows an employee to claim a broader range of damages, including all lost wages and pain and suffering. Punitive damages may also be awarded in severe cases of an employer's reckless disregard for safety or gross negligence.

Normally you can't sue your employer for a workplace injury - that's the point of workers' compensation, but there are three main exceptions when you can:

  • No Workers' Comp Insurance
  • Gross Negligence
  • Employer Assault

If an employer does not carry workers' compensation insurance, an injured employee might be able to file a lawsuit in civil court. 

Third-party claims

A third-party claim comes into effect when you're injured in a work-related accident that is caused either in whole or in part by the negligence, recklessness, or intentional action of some outside person. If another party is negligent in causing your injuries, a third-party personal injury claim allows you to seek compensation of your lost wages, medical costs and pain and suffering.

Making a personal injury claim in addition to your workers compensation claim allows you to seek recovery of damages not covered by workers compensation, and may come closer to compensating you for other injuries such as emotional distress.

Other types of workplace injury lawsuits

If a worker is injured by a machine or defective equipment, the equipment failed to work properly or is inherently dangerous and the manufacturer failed to properly warn the employer, the injured worker may be able to file a products liability lawsuit against the manufacturer of the product.

A worker who is injured by a toxic substance in the workplace – like asbestos – may be able to bring a toxic injury lawsuit against the manufacturer of that substance.

Get Help with Your Workers' Compensation Claim in Seattle.

If you have suffered a work-related injury or illness and are seeking workers' compensation benefits, please contact Foster Law, PC to schedule a free initial consultation. We are attorneys in Seattle, Washington with specific expertise in workers' compensation law and can help ensure that you receive the benefits you deserve. Call 206-682-3436 or fill out our online contact form for more information.

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