Can I Sue for a Workers’ Comp Injury?
Constantly, workers come home sick or hurt. It’s just part of the job. Incidents arise as a matter of course. If you work in some lines of work-like manufacturing or construction-you expect it will be your turn at some point. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t do anything about it. If you’re hurt while reasonably working, there are different options available. Recovery exists in different forms.
Lots of people ask us about benefits afforded under Illinois workers’ comp law. It’s the go-to for employment injuries. Yet, in some cases, you might be able to bring a lawsuit too. That might open up different avenues to compensation. In the next few sections, we’ll outline when you can pursue both. Then, we’ll explain why choosing one over the other might make sense.
If you have any questions, please feel free to call us. Our attorneys have years of experience assisting injured workers. We know how to pull the levers to get you the help you need. We can make a plan that maximizes your recovery.
- The Reality of Workplace Injuries
- The General Rule of Workplace Recovery
- Lawsuits and Workers’ Comp Claims
- When can I Sue for Workplace Injuries?
- Benefits of Suing for Workplace Accidents
- Further Resources for Workers’ Comp Issues
- Call Us to See if You Have a Case
The Reality of Workplace Injuries
It might help to scope the problem out before analyzing solutions. Each year, millions of workers get sick or injured at work. Almost 1 million accidents require a day off of work or more. That translates into a lot of lost income. Yet, that’s for the company. Who also loses out? The workers do! They miss wages, have to pay ER bills, and incur other fees.
How do most accidents happen on the job? Well, they come about from carelessness mainly. The top sources of work incidents are slips, fires, crashes, and falls. Thousands of people die annually too due to work mishaps. This casts an untold toll on victims and their families. They’re saddled with enormous funeral, medical, and other bills. They encounter new pain and suffering that doesn’t seem to end. Their troubled with the task of finding a job that fits their new status. This is the tough reality of workplace accidents. Lots of focus is put on the company impact. But few look at the burden put on workers.
What are some quick facts?
- Workplace deaths are fast approaching 10,000 each year.
- Construction accounts for the biggest amount of workplace deaths.
- There are over 20,000 workplace incidents each day.
- Accidents cost workers about $50,000 out of pocket.
- The total economic effect of workplace accidents is almost $300 billion each year.
The General Rule of Workplace Recovery
Most of the time, you can’t sue the company if you get hurt at work. You’ll be forced to go through the workers’ comp system. It’s set up like insurance. Businesses pay into it based on their number of employees. Then, if one of them gets sick or hurt, that worker collects. They don’t need to show fault. For example, they don’t have to prove a negligence or intentional tort claim. This saves them a lot of time and effort. It also saves the company from having to fork over huge settlements. In this sense, it’s kind of compromise. Most states want business to move forward without workers getting stiffed. Yet, workers aren’t barred in all cases from bringing a lawsuit. In some situations, they might be able to do one or the other. This acknowledges some exceptions to the no-fault, compromise system.
Lawsuits and Workers’ Comp Claims
Before we get into the exceptions that allow workers to sue, we want to go over the basics of both a claim and a lawsuit. We’ll start with the latter first. Legal causes of action state that someone intentionally or negligently harmed you. With intentional suits, you must prove the defendant intended to do something wrongful. With negligence suits, you must prove the defendant breached a duty and caused you damages. Both suits allow you to recover vast sums of money for intangible and tangible injuries. Their bases arise from statute and common law (history).
Workers’ comp claims are much different. They’ve been enacted by state and federal governments. They’re carveouts that force you to go through this process instead of the traditional legal process in certain situations. To make a claim, you must show that you were 1) properly employed 2) injured at work and 3) have damages. If you can do that, you get compensation. That compensation package is different than what you might obtain in a lawsuit. It generally entails lost wages, medical bills, and future disability. By and large, it’s less in scope than jury awards or settlement amounts.
Naturally, you might wonder then, When can I Sue for Workplace Injuries? We address that topic next!
When can I Sue for Workplace Injuries?
Normally, you have to go through the workers’ comp process for on-the-job injuries. However, in some cases, you might be able to file a lawsuit. Who you’re suing and what you’re suing for determines if you can.
For instance, if a third party injured you, then you can sue. Remember, all employees count as the same party, your employer. Yet, there are lots of other people you come in contact with at work. Think about visitors, trespassers, contractors, and others. They could all injure you accidentally or on purpose. If that happens, you might be able to sue them. One common example is product manufacturers. If their product is defective and it harms you while at work, you could sue that business. Note, this might limit your workers’ comp claim if you wanted to bring that as well.
Now, let’s discuss the subject matter of your claims. Certain types of claims might mean you can bring a suit. For example, if you’re claiming intentional tort, you could sue. Intentional tort means someone intended the wrongful act that harmed you. Common varieties of these are fraud, battery, and assault but there are many others. Review whether the underlying substance of your grievance will allow you to bring a lawsuit.
This short discussion should help you see when you can sue for workplace incidents. Generally, look at the type of harm and offender. That will shape what kind of claim you bring. Now, let’s talk about the benefits of a lawsuit compared to a workers’ comp claim.
Benefits of Suing for Workplace Accidents
We’ve hinted at some of the reasons why you might prefer a lawsuit to a workers’ comp claim. Now, we want to pick them out and clarify them.
First, the size of compensation. Lawsuits open up whole new areas of potential recovery. Just take punitive damages-which is not an option in workers’ comp. This is meant to deter and punish egregious conduct. It often doubles or triples a plaintiff’s economic damages. Just right there, you could see a lot more money from a suit than a claim. Yet, there are other ways to maximize your compensation that don’t exist in the workers’ comp system.
Second, you can target more people in a lawsuit. That allows for more theories of recovery. With more theories, comes a bigger bottom line. Plus, if one defendant is bankrupt, you can target the next. This added flexibility makes a lawsuit even more preferable than a workers’ comp claim.
Third, the legal process allows for more storytelling. A case is set up for a victim to tell his or her story. This means there’s no ceiling on effect and damages. You can use discovery, trial, and other means to take a jury where you want to go. The opposite is true in workers’ comp claims. That arena is very confined. You don’t have the large freedom that you have in court. This means a lot to your potential compensation.
These are just some of the benefits of a lawsuit when you compare it to a workers’ comp claim. They touch on process and substance. To learn more about why you might want to bring a suit over a claim, call our offices.
Further Resources for Workers’ Comp Issues
Peruse these resources to get a better understanding of workers’ comp.
Call Us to See if You Have a Case
The laws of workers’ comp might seem like a maze. How you actually get to a lawsuit may befuddle or confuse you. We can guide you through the forest. Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers has brought actions on behalf of workers. We know the difference between claims and suits in the employee context. We can show you if you have a case. If you do, we will execute a plan that seeks the highest compensation available under the law. To find out how, call us today.
Learn more about workers’ comp claims. Read the following articles.