Employees typically cannot sue their employers for work-related injuries. However, it is important to remember that there are exceptions. Workers' compensation laws in California require employers to pay for employee injuries regardless of who was at fault. In return, employers are immune from personal injury lawsuits from workers in a majority of situations. There are still exceptions to this rule and there are scenarios in which injured workers can hold their employers accountable for their damages and losses.
Understanding Employer Immunity and Exceptions to It
In most scenarios, workers' comp laws in California prevent employees from suing their employers for work-related injuries. Workers' compensation laws establish "employer immunity" because employers are required to pay workers' compensation benefits regardless of fault rather than requiring employees to prove that the employer was negligent.
That said there are exceptions to employer immunity. Here are some examples of situations in which you may be able to sue your employer:
- Your employer intentionally caused your job-related injury.
- Your employer showed gross negligence and your injuries occurred as a result. This is common in cases where an employer allowed a hazardous condition to exist and the accident occurred as a result.
- Your employer denied your workers' compensation claim in bad faith. You may be able to, in such cases, file a lawsuit after you've exhausted other remedies such as appealing the denial of benefits.
- Your employer made the product that caused your injuries. If a defective product such as a machine or equipment made by your employer injured you, then, you may be able to file a product liability claim against your employer.
- You are an independent contractor. If this is the case, the company for whom you did the job, is technically not your employer. Therefore, employer immunity doesn't apply in such cases.
What to Do If You Are Injured on the Job
If you were injured on the job, you may be able to file a lawsuit against your employer. Here are some important steps that you would be well advised to take in order to find out whether you are able to do so.
Workers' compensation eligibility: One of the first questions to ask if you've been injured on the job is whether or not you are eligible for workers' compensation benefits. If you are, it is highly likely that you may not be able to sue your employer. It is important that you file a claim for benefits in such cases.
Medical evaluation: You will need to show evidence of the cause and extent of injuries you suffered on the job. Therefore, it is important that you get a comprehensive medical evaluation as soon as possible. You may need to see a doctor approved by your employer in order to preserve your eligibility for workers' compensation.
Accident details: Write down as many details as possible about the accident because critical details can get fuzzy as time goes by. You have a better advantage when you have rich detail.
Work injury lawyer: It is also crucial that you contact an experienced lawyer who has a track record of representing injured workers.
Injured When You're Not on the Job?
Is it possible to sue your employer for medical expenses and other losses if you were not on the job when you suffered your injury? The answer in most cases is: No. But, there are still exceptions. For example, while commuting to and work cannot technically be considered "on the job," you may be able to seek work injury settlement or verdict if you were running a work-related errand on the way to or from work.
Similarly, you may be eligible for compensation even if you were not on your employer's premises at the time of the accident. For example, if you were on a company trip and suffered an accident during that time, you may be eligible for compensation. If you are injured outside of work and don't have workers' compensation or a negligence lawsuit against your employer, you may need to explore other avenues of compensation such as unemployment or disability benefits. If a third party caused your injuries, you may be able to file a third-party claim seeking compensation as well.
How to Seek Full Compensation
If you are unable to sue your employer, you may still be able to pursue a third-party personal injury claim. Under this claim process, you may file against a contractor, subcontractor, property owner, a negligent driver, manufacturer of a defective product that injured you or any other party who caused your injury. The immunity rule under California's workers' compensation law only applies to your employer. So, you can sue any other person or entity that is responsible for your injuries.
Statute of Limitations
Statute of limitations refers to the time limit within which a lawsuit must be filed. In California, the statute of limitations for personal injury claims is two years from the date of the injury. The time limit is the same for products liability claims as well. However, if you are filing a claim against a governmental entity in California, you must file a Notice of Claim (a precursor to a lawsuit) within 180 days of the incident. Once the entity rejects your claim, you will be able to file a civil lawsuit. Because the statute of limitations could vary depending on the type of lawsuit you file, it is important that you consult with an experienced Los Angeles work injury lawyer as soon as possible.
How a Work Injury Lawyer Can Help
If you or a loved one has suffered a work-related injury in California, it is important to take that first step and schedule a free consultation with an experienced work injury lawyer. At Greenberg & Ruby, we have a long and successful track record of helping injured workers fight for their rights and secure maximum compensation for their losses. Whether you were injured on the job, away from your workplace or were injured by a third party, we can help evaluate your case and help you make the decisions that can help bring you the best outcome.