Workplace injuries are mostly accidental. Thus, it is expected that the injured party will apply for compensation under the workers’ compensation law. While this law helps take care of the medical expenses and gives other benefits to help recover from the injury, it is not the only compensation option for employees. You can opt to sue your employer for the injuries sustained at the workplace. However, you forfeit the compensation benefits stipulated under the workers’ compensation law if you choose to sue your employer.
When you are injured and taken care of under the workers’ compensation plan, your employer’s culpability/fault is not questioned. Sadly, there are instances where the employer is at fault, and there is a need to hold them responsible for their actions or inactions that led to your injury. These are the cases we at The Workers Compensation Attorney Group help Long Beach workers address. We believe that compensation without apportioning responsibility for the injury is simply not enough.
Instances You Should Consider Suing your Employer as Opposed to Collecting the Benefits of the Workers’ Compensation
The ultimate goal for both workers’ compensation and the suing option is compensating you for the injuries sustained at the workplace. With workers’ compensation, you are assured of the compensation once you complete the claim process as long as the claim is not denied. In suing your employer, however, you can have either one of the two outcomes;
- A successful suit is where you will be awarded damages. The sums awarded are much higher than the amounts paid in the workers’ compensation plan.
- An unsuccessful suit, which denies you any money to cater for your injuries, lost wages, or disabilities.
It is worth noting that you can choose to file an injury claim to access the benefits of the workers’ compensation plan or sue your employer and be compensated in damages.
You need to have a higher probability of winning legal action against your employer if you are to be compensated for your injuries. There are certain actions or inactions by the employer that tip the odds to your favor in the case.
Installation of a Defective Product in the Workplace
It is the employer’s responsibility to ensure that the equipment the employees are using are reliable, of the highest quality, and are safe. It is also the employer’s responsibility to properly maintain the equipment according to the directions offered by the manufacturer to ensure that the safety of the employees is not compromised.
If you are injured as a result of defective equipment, you can sue both the manufacturer and your employer for the injury. You will be required to prove that the manufacturer knowingly supplied a defective product. You will also be required to prove that the employer knowingly installed a piece of defective machinery without properly informing the company’s employees of the dangers they could face. In these cases, the employers and the manufacturers will be required to compensate you for your medical bills, pain, and suffering as well as other damages.
Use of Toxic Substances at the Workplace
Use of certain chemicals may cause injury, whether immediate or after some time. Employers are required to inform the employees as well as provide the necessary equipment to protect their staff members against the harmful effects of the chemicals. The use of chemicals such as asbestos, chromium, silica, benzene, and radium may lead to illness or injuries. These harmful effects establish grounds for a lawsuit against the employer.
Short term injuries, such as burns or poisoning, are immediate. However, some may take time before their harmful effects are noticeable. Immediate injury cases are easy to prove. Cases that involve long-term ailments or injuries such as lung diseases or cancer are more difficult to prove. However, they are not impossible. With the ideal legal strategy, employees may win the cases and be compensated for their injuries and pain suffered.
Failure to Have the Right Safety Equipment Installed
Employers have a responsibility to ensure that workers have a safe working environment. It follows that they have to install the right safety gadgets and regularly conduct safety training for their employees. However, some employers may skip on offering periodic safety training.
Others may fail to install and maintain safety gadgets. In case you are injured because of the failure on the part of the employer to adhere to safety standards, you can sue them for compensation for your injuries.
It is clear that workers’ compensation plans cover employees from harm that results from both intentional and negligent actions on the employer’s part or an accident during the course of discharging their roles. However, an employee can pursue legal charges against an employer if it is a matter of intentional acts that led to an injury.
Intentional acts by an employer are tortious actions under the legal system, which gives grounds for an employee to sue the employer. Actions such as assault, false imprisonment of an employee by an employer, and discrimination are an example of actions that are considered as tortious acts. These actions result in both physical harm and/or emotional distress, situations that are best compensated for through legal suits against an employer as opposed to the workers' compensation plan. These intentional acts are evident in either of the following ways:
- Assault - You will have to prove that your employer’s actions were conscious and deliberate. Further, you will be required by the court to show that said deeds resulted in an injury. Only then can the physical action against you by the employer be considered assault. If it is a case of assault by another employee, you must prove that your employer authorized it. If your employer did not sign-off, you have no action against your employer.
- Injury from fraudulent concealment – concealment may happen in two ways; hiding material facts about the risk of injury in the job to an employee or suppressing information material in helping an employee access compensation for an injury.
- An employer should inform you of all dangers in the workplace before you sign your employment agreement. Any changes made to your work environment during your employment that put you at risk of injury should be communicated. Failure by the employer to do so is deemed as an act of concealment, a matter you can seek compensation for in damages.
When an employer frustrates your compensation claim process by withholding material information, they are committing fraud through concealment. Further, any action to deny the existence of your injury or deny that you were their employee at the time of the injury is enough to deem the action as fraudulent concealment. Some employers have been known to prevent employees from seeking treatment for their injuries as it will expose the employer’s knowledge of the dangers the employees face at their work stations. This is an act meant to conceal information to the detriment of a worker.
- Discrimination- If your employer continuously assigns to you tasks that pose a risk of injury and the task allocation seems only to affect you, it can be said that your employer is discriminatory. If the job allocation is based on your race, religion, or any factor other than your qualifications, the action is unfair. You, therefore, have grounds to sue your employer.
Suing the Employer as a First Option in the Absence of a Workers’ Compensation Plan
As an injured employee, you have the choice of taking up a workers’ compensation claim or suing your employer. However, there are instances when your employer does not have a workers’ compensation plan in place. If you are in this situation, you can sue your employer for injuries sustained at the workplace.
In this particular situation, you do not have to prove that the employer was at fault. It is the employer’s responsibility to ensure that all workers have a worker’s insurance coverage in place to protect them against injuries that they may suffer in the workplace. During the trial, it is upon the employer to prove that they were not at fault. They too cannot claim that you were at fault, partially, or expressly. This is a safeguard in place to ensure employers have workers’ compensation coverage for their employees.
Suits Against Third Parties
These are legal actions against individuals or institutions other than your employer that may have caused your injury. For example, a manufacturer may have supplied faulty equipment to the company, and the injury was a result of the defect. In this case, you have grounds to sue the manufacturer as a third party.
Your employer and the insurance company offering the workers’ compensation plan can be parties to the case as directed by the courts.
Your Options if Your Employer does not have a Workers’ Compensation Plan
The cost of medical treatment after an injury is a tall order. It is the reason why the workers’ compensation package is a legal requirement in which all employers must have for all employees. However, some employers may not have insurance coverage for their employees. From the ongoing, this hurdle is remedied by the legal option of suing your employer. However, a question is posed, “What if my employer is unable to pay the benefits owed to me. Who compensates me?”
Various reasons may affect an employer’s ability to pay your compensation. However, your recovery should not be put on hold because of your employer’s inability to compensate you. In such situations, the Uninsured Employers Benefit Fund (UEBTF) steps in and pays for your workers’ compensation benefits. The agency acts upon injured employee requests. You will be required to attach certain documents to your request. UEBTF requires;
- Special notice of the lawsuit to your employer.
- All medical reports from the attending physician detailing the nature of the injury, treatment, and medication given.
- All medical bills related to the work injury.
- Employment records as proof that you were an employee of the company at the time of your injury.
In the civil matter against your employer, it will be upon you as an injured employee to prove that your employer did not have a workers’ compensation coverage. Your employer will have a difficult time to prove otherwise. They cannot claim partial fault on your part as a defense; neither can your employer claim it was another worker’s fault for the accident. A successful suit means that you will be awarded damages, and the amount will be paid by the Uninsured Employers Benefit Fund (UEBTF). Your employer will then owe the agency the amount of your compensation. These are the legal safeguards in place to ensure that you do not suffer when you are injured. However, you can only access the safeguards that are only in place if you present a civil suit against your employer within three years from the injury date.
An injured worker can seek legal action to claim damages in a civil suit or to access compensation under the workers’ compensation plan. However, you cannot earn sums from both claims. Your employer is thus allowed to deduct the sums they pay you in one case from the amount paid in the other. This is to avoid paying an injured worker twice.
Penalties to Employers who Fail to Take Out a Workers’ Compensation Plan
Uninsured employers risk penalization for their failure to have an insurance coverage for their workers. They are liable to;
- A misdemeanor charge that attracts a jail term of one year.
- A penalty of double the quoted premium sums. However, the amounts should not be in excess of $10,000.
Understanding the Legal Process When Suing Your Employer
Any legal suit against your employer is a civil matter. This means that the burden of proof lies with you, the plaintiff to the case. You must prove that the injuries sustained were as a result of actions or inactions by your employer.
The success of your case against your employer hinges on the facts of the case. It should be beyond any doubt that the injuries sustained resulted from the actions or inactions of your employer. Therefore, it is not always assured that a legal suit against your employer is a sure win. Your legal team will advise you on the best course of action.
Settling the civil matter can be addressed in either of two ways. Both parties can agree to an out-of-court settlement, in which case the trial will be halted. However, if the terms in the settlement are not agreeable to both parties, the matter will proceed on to trial. The plaintiff’s pain, suffering, medical bills, and loss of income will then be compensated in damages should the courts rule in favor of the plaintiff.
The court option is in place to safeguard the interests of the employee against actions or the lack thereof of the employer that led to the injury. However, the same legal system takes care of the employer’s interest against frivolous lawsuits that may be brought up by the employee. That means that any matter that is deemed to be outside the legal provisions as to the duties of the employer will not be brought against the employer. It is, therefore, best to consider legal help to determine what constitutes as matters actionable against your employer.
Steps To Consider When Suing Your Employer
A successful suit relies on a solid process. That is, the steps you take in building a case against your employer are as important as the evidence you produce in the matter. As such, it is crucial to take into account the following ideas to ensure the suit runs smoothly.
Reaching Out to an Attorney
Forfeiting the services of an attorney works to your detriment. Their understanding of the legal process, as well as your circumstances, puts you in a better position in seeking legal redress than if you were to pursue the matter on your own. Attorneys will assess the merits of your case, find out all the material facts required in the suit, and have in a place a good strategy in the lawsuit against your employer.
Engaging a lawyer before taking action against your employer offers perspective as to whether you have a case against your employer. If not, you do not have to incur unnecessary expenses and spend time gathering evidence in a case that is a non-starter.
Engage Your Employer
A suit should be an action of the last result. It is, therefore, best to also engage your employer to settle the injury matter out of court. The engagement is beneficial to you and your employer since it helps avoid court sessions that may be time consuming and expensive. However, your employer should offer fair terms in settling the matter. Only then can the process be fair.
Document Your Evidence
You will need evidence to prove the case against your employer. It is best to start gathering it all before as well as when you engage your attorney. You too can consider engaging your work colleagues to offer their account of the events that led to the injury. Adequate evidence works to your advantage, and you have leverage in an out-of-court settlement.
Why Sue Your Employer?
Before deciding on taking legal action against your employer, it is best to answer the question of why you are seeking legal action in the first place. Various reasons inform this decision. However, it is best to have your choices mirror the following reasons. They are critical in any legal action against your employer. These reasons explain why a suit is a preferable option as opposed to making a workers’ compensation claim.
Seeking Punishment for an Employer’s Fault
As discussed earlier, workers’ compensation plans are no-fault compensation programs. However, your employer’s action may be intentional or a case of negligence. Such aspects should not be repeated in the future. A suit against your employer ensures that they are punished for such actions. Further, the employer will have to make adjustments to avoid similar incidents in the future.
Seeking Payment for Pain and Suffering
Workers’ compensation insurance policies do not pay for the pain and suffering that results from a work-related injury. However, civil suits against your employer offer a compensation avenue for your suffering and pain. The courts will determine what amounts in damages are equivalent to the pain and suffering upon a successful ruling against your employer.
Legally, pain is defined as any physical agony experienced as a result of the injuries suffered at work. Suffering alludes to the emotional distress, sadness, frustrations, anger, and humiliation you may have suffered due to the injury.
The Pursuit of More Compensation Sums
In certain circumstances, the medical bills and the incidental costs incurred while seeking treatment may not be fully compensated by the sums stipulated in the policy. If you are in this situation, you can forfeit filing a workers’ compensation claim and instead pursue a civil action against your employer. In so doing, you will have access to more sums than those payable in the compensation plan if the matter is determined in your favor.
A Case of Interference by Your Employer in a Workers’ Compensation Claim
There are instances of employers frustrate efforts by employees to seek a claim under the workers’ compensation plan. Whether intentional or through processes, such actions by employers are gross violations of their responsibilities and acts whose ultimate end is to hurt the employee. If you are in such a circumstance, you have a reason to pursue a civil action against your employer.
Finding a Workers’ Compensation Attorney Near Me
It is an uphill battle seeking compensation for your injuries through the courts. In most cases, the employer has the capacity to hire several attorneys to frustrate your chances of getting compensation for your injuries. In other situations, your case may not need to go through a tedious court process. An out-of-court settlement will be the ideal approach. All the above scenarios reinforce the need to have a legal team on your side.
The Workers Compensation Attorney Group in Long Beach, CA, has adopted an approach to help all our clients in these matters. We review your case, assess the possible outcomes, and advise you on the best legal strategy to adopt. It is our commitment to ensure you receive the best legal services in work-related matters. Be sure to get in touch with our Long Beach workers compensation attorney today at 714-716-5933 and enjoy expert legal services in your pursuit of compensation.