People who have been injured on the job often ask us if they can “sue for workers’ comp.” While nearly all workers in West Virginia have recourse to workers’ compensation if they suffer a job-related injury, the process of obtaining benefits is not the same as filing a lawsuit.
The rules surrounding workers’ compensation can be complicated and unclear, leaving many injured workers uncertain about what they deserve and how to obtain it. Many workers are also unaware that they may have separate claims if the negligence of a third party caused their work injury.
Wondering if you can sue for workers’ comp? The attorneys at Colombo Law can review your case for FREE and explain all of your legal options. Call 304-599-4229 to get started.
Can I Have Both a Workers’ Compensation Claim and a Personal Injury Claim for the Same Injury in West Virginia?
The short answer to this question is yes: It is possible to file a workers’ compensation claim and file a personal injury claim for the same injury in West Virginia. However, there are some important things to know.
Let us start with the basics. Workers’ compensation is a type of insurance. Employers that are required to carry this insurance pay into the system so that if and when a worker is injured, the insurance company will pay for the worker’s medical expenses, lost wages, disability benefits, and rehabilitation.
A personal injury claim, on the other hand, is a legal action against another party for damages sustained as a result of negligence. Workers are able to bring lawsuits against negligent third parties. However, workers are typically prohibited from suing employers for injuries they sustain on the job; workers’ compensation is considered the sole remedy, with the exception being deliberate intent.
So, while you can file both a workers’ compensation claim and a personal injury claim, these will be two separate matters. Only in the most extreme instances can an employer be sued for personal injury.
When Can I Sue for Workers’ Comp?
Filing a workers’ compensation claim does not not involve “suing” anyone. It is similar to making an auto insurance claim when you’re in an accident.
If you get hurt on the job, it is crucial you report the injury to your employer as quickly as possible. Your employer will notify its workers’ comp insurer, who will investigate to determine whether you are entitled to benefits.
Workers’ comp benefits are provided on a no-fault basis. This means that, unlike with a personal injury claim, you do not need to prove that someone else was responsible for your injuries to obtain compensation. Eligibility is based on whether the injury is work-related, your employment status, and other factors.
When Can I Sue a Third Party for a Workplace Injury?
Workers’ compensation covers medical expenses and provides support for lost income if a worker becomes disabled. However, the benefits do not fully encompass the losses you may suffer as a result of a workplace accident. If a third party’s negligence caused your job-related injury, you may be entitled to additional damages recoverable through a personal injury claim.
If you suffered a serious injury at work and you believe a third party may have been at fault, it is in your best interest to seek legal counsel as soon as possible. A knowledgeable attorney can investigate and collect evidence to prove your case.
What Third Parties May Be Held Liable for a Work Injury?
To better understand what we mean by “third parties,” let us look at a few examples:
Say you are injured when a ladder breaks, causing you to fall and suffer a spinal cord injury. Investigation may show that the manufacturer of the ladder was aware of a possible defect but chose not to address it, in which case you may be able to win compensation for your damages.
Contractors and Subcontractors
Generally speaking, you cannot bring a personal injury claim against an employer or co-worker. However, if there is another party on the job site (a contractor dropping off equipment, for example) and they cause your injury, you may be able to sue.
Many jobs require workers to drive or perform work in the roadway. If a motor vehicle accident occurs due to a driver’s negligence, you can make a claim for damages.
Your job may also require you to be on other people’s property while working. Dangerous conditions on the property—such as uneven sidewalks, broken stairs, etc.—can lead to injury. If these conditions were caused by the property owner’s negligence and you were hurt in the course of your job, you may be able to bring a claim against the property owner.
While any of these could apply to your situation, it is important to note that these types of cases can be extremely complicated. It is crucial to work with a law firm that has extensive experience in both workers’ compensation claims and personal injury law.
Suing for Workers’ Comp? You May Have Additional Claims
Your first step following a work-related injury should be to begin the workers’ comp process by informing your employer. You should also take a serious look at whether or not you may also be able to recover additional compensation through a third-party claim.
At Colombo Law, we are here to help. You should never be liable for expenses and damages that were caused by someone else’s negligence.