If you suffer a workplace injury or illness in California the California workers’ compensation system may provide you with benefits. If your claim is approved you may receive benefits that cover the cost of treating your injury or illness as well as wage replacement benefits to cover your lost earnings while you are unable to work. However, you may not collect damages for “pain and suffering” and by accepting workers’ compensation benefits, you may not sue your employer. Understanding the basics of the California workers’ compensation system should help you determine if your injury will be a covered workers’ compensation claim.
However, workers’ compensation may not be your only remedy when you have been injured on the job. Although the general rule is that workplace injuries are limited to workers’ compensation benefits, there are several exceptions in which you may be able to file a lawsuit for damages. For instance:
Third Party At Fault
If another party, other than your employer, was at fault or caused your injury, you might be able to bring a personal injury lawsuit against that person or entity. Sometimes a third party will be on the premises of the employer, and will commit a negligent act which causes injury to the employee. For example, a roofing contractor is working at a construction site and trips over tools left behind by the framing contractor, or a delivery driver in a warehouse may injure an employee by hitting him with a forklift. When an injury is caused by a person who truly is a third party, and has no employment relationship with the injured worker’s employer, it may be possible to bring a personal injury action against that person and/or that person’s employer.
If you were injured because of your employer’s egregious or criminal conduct, you might be able to bring a personal injury lawsuit against your employer. The exclusive remedy provision of the workers’ compensation law will not be applicable if the employer actually intends to harm an employee. In such a situation, the injured worker may bring a lawsuit against the employer. It should be noted that this exception does not extend to situations where the employer acts with indifference, or creates an a hazardous working environment; rather, it means an actual intent to cause harm. Due to its narrow application, this exception is rarely triggered.
Product Liability Claims
If you were injured by a defective product or part, you might be able to bring a products liability action against the manufacturer, distributor, or retailer of the product. For example, if you were injured because of an assembly machine failed because it was designed defectively, you may be able to sue the manufacturer of the assembly machine, or if you were injured because a ladder collapsed and that ladder was defective, you may be able to file suit against the manufacturer of the ladder.
A third party lawsuit resulting from a work-related injury in San Diego may result in a higher settlement, but it will also require the legal finesse of an attorney who has a good understanding of both Workers’ Compensation and personal injury law. Be sure your San Diego personal injury attorney understands the intricacies of both areas of law before agreeing to hire them as your counsel.