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Injured at Work? Here’s How to Sue Employer in 2024

You can potentially sue your employer for an injury on the job, but in most cases, you would file a workers’ compensation claim instead. Workers’ compensation is a form of insurance that provides medical benefits and wage replacement to employees who are injured while performing their job duties.
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C.L. Mike Schmidt Published by C.L. Mike Schmidt

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Employer Immunity and Exceptions to it

In many instances, workers' compensation laws across the country establish "employer immunity," which typically prevents employees from suing their employers for work-related injuries.

According to G&R, workers' compensation laws establish "employer immunity" because employers are required to pay workers' compensation benefits regardless of fault rather than requiring employees to prove that the employer was negligent [1].

However, there are exceptions to this employer immunity rule.

Here are some examples of situations where you might be able to sue your employer:

  • You were injured as a result of your employer's deliberate assault or condoning of an assault by another employee.
  • Your injury worsened or was exacerbated due to your employer's deliberate or fraudulent concealment of your injury and its connection to your job.
  • You were injured by a defective product manufactured by your employer, which you acquired from a source other than your employer.
  • Your employer did not have the required Workers' Compensation Insurance.
  • You were injured by a power press with its machine guard removed. This applies when an employer knowingly removes or fails to install a point of operation guard on a power press, with the intent and knowledge that it could lead to serious injury or death to workers.

What is Workers' Compensation?

According to NationWide org. workers' compensation insurance is a crucial safety net that provides medical and wage benefits to individuals who are injured or fall ill at their workplace. This insurance coverage is mandated by each state, and the specific benefits regarding wages and medical care can vary [2].

Regarded as a form of social insurance, workers' compensation is founded on a mutual agreement between employers and employees. In exchange for employers purchasing workers' compensation insurance, they are shielded from civil lawsuits by injured workers. However, both parties have limitations to their benefits under this system.

Workers’ compensation insurance is purchased by businesses and is underwritten by insurance companies and, in some states, underwritten by publicly supported state funds.

What to do if You Were Injured on the Job

According to DIR, workers' compensation benefits are designed to provide you with the medical treatment you need to recover from your work related injury or illness, partially replace the wages you lose while you are recovering, and help you return to work. Workers’ compensation benefits do not include damages for pain and suffering or punitive damages, [3].

To ensure you receive these benefits, follow these steps:

  • Report the injury or illness to your employer promptly. Notify your supervisor as soon as possible after the injury or, if it developed gradually, as soon as you believe it was caused by your job. Failing to report the injury within 30 days may result in the loss of your right to receive workers' compensation benefits.
  • Seek emergency treatment if necessary. In case of an emergency, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room immediately. Inform the medical staff that your injury or illness is work-related. If it is safe to do so, contact your employer for further instructions.
  • If emergency treatment is not required, ensure you receive first aid and consult a doctor if necessary to address your injury or illness.

Workplace Injury Statistics

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics publication, in 2022, private industry employers reported 2.8 million nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses, marking a 7.5 percent increase from the previous year [4]. This uptick is attributed to a rise in both injuries, which increased by 4.5 percent to 2.3 million cases, and illnesses, which surged by 26.1 percent to 460,700 cases.

The spike in illnesses is particularly notable in respiratory illness cases, which soared by 35.4 percent to 365,000 cases in 2022. This follows a decline in respiratory illnesses in 2021 compared to 2020. These statistics are derived from the Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses (SOII).

Over the 2021-2022 period, there were 2.2 million cases involving days away from work (DAFW), accounting for 66.5 percent of the total cases involving days away from work, job restriction, or transfer (DART). These cases occurred at an annualized incidence rate of 112.9 cases per 10,000 full-time equivalent (FTE) workers and required a median of 10 days away from work.

Additionally, there were 1.1 million cases involving days of job transfer or restriction (DJTR), comprising 33.5 percent of total DART cases, and occurred at an annualized rate of 56.9 cases per 10,000 FTE workers. The median days of job transfer or restriction was 15 days over the 2021-2022 period.

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References:

1. https://www.greenbergrubylaw.com/when-can-i-sue-work-injury#immunity
2. https://www.dir.ca.gov/dwc/injuredworker.htm
3. https://www.nationwide.com/lc/resources/small-business/articles/what-is-workers-compensation-insurance
4. https://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/osh.pdf