California workers’ compensation laws allow individuals who are injured on the job to collect compensation for medical costs and a portion of their income if they are unable to return to work due to the injury. In most cases, an injured party cannot also file a personal injury lawsuit against an employer. However, there are instances in which a work-related injury warrants filing an injury lawsuit against a negligent third party in addition to a workers’ comp claim.
Take the example of a police officer out of Staten Island, New York, who was injured in a traffic stop when an alleged drunk driver stopped, but then drove away with the officer’s arm stuck in the window of her Jeep. The officer’s arm came free while the vehicle was in motion and he fell to the ground. He suffered injuries to his left wrist and left shoulder.
It was recently reported that the officer is suing the driver as well as the owners of the vehicle for an unspecified amount of money. The story does not report whether the officer filed a workers’ compensation claim, but it appears he could have in this instance.
When An Injury Lawsuit Makes Sense
Although workers’ compensation laws generally protect employers from personal injury lawsuits, there are situations in which a work injury warrants filing an injury lawsuit as well. These include:
- If a work injury is caused by a product defect, it may make sense to sue the product manufacturer.
- If negligence on the part of a third party causes the injury, for example if a construction site’s scaffolding was incorrectly assembled by a third party contactor and it results in an injury.
- If you are injured by a toxic substance, you may be able to sue the maker of that substance.
- If it can be shown that your employer acted intentionally in a manner that caused your injury, it may be able to file an injury lawsuit against your employer.
What Can Be Recovered
While workers’ compensation benefits may provide compensation for the cost of medical treatment and permanent or temporary disability benefits, it does not compensate injured parties for pain and suffering or loss of consortium. Workers’ compensation also does not allow for punitive damages if it can be shown that an at-fault party acted with malice, oppression or fraud.
An injured party cannot collect twice the amount for the same thing, such as medical costs or lost wages. But it does make sense in work-related injury incidents, to review the facts of the case carefully to determine if a personal injury lawsuit is also warranted.