Is workers’ compensation all that I can get?
Workers’ compensation is generally the only compensation employees who are injured on the job are entitled to. How workers’ compensation works is that workers are guaranteed specified damages for on-the-job injuries, so they don’t have to prove negligence or other wrongdoing by their employer. The tradeoff is what workers’ compensation covers. Workers’ compensation damages or compensation is limited to a percentage of an injured worker’s average weekly wages plus cost of medical care. What workers’ compensation does not cover are special damages such as mental anguish or pain and suffering. Likewise, there are generally no punitive damages. But there are exceptions.
When a worker is injured on the job by a defective product, the worker can sue the
manufacturer or distributor of that defective product; however, the workers’ compensation
insurer (or whomever pays the workers’ compensation benefits) may be entitled to be
reimbursed from monies recovered by the worker. A worker injured by a defective product must prove the same elements that anyone else must prove to recover for injuries caused by a
defective product, such as the defective manufacture or design of the product and that such defect caused the workers injuries.
Below are some other workers’ compensation vs. employers’ liability situations in which a worker may recover additional damages:
If an employer engages in reckless, intentional, or dangerous conduct which causes a worker’s injuries, the worker may be able to sue for damages outside of what is provided by workers’ compensation, such as mental anguish, pain, and suffering, and/or punitive damages.
If a worker is injured on the job but the injury was caused by someone other than the employer, such as a contractor, visitor, or vendor, they may be able to sue that individual or company directly for the damages caused.
If a worker is injured by a toxic substance at his or her workplace, they may be able to sue for the toxic exposure, depending on what it is and how the exposure occurred.
If a worker is fired because they filed or could file a workers’ compensation claim, then they may have a claim against their employer for punitive damages since that would be unlawful.