Legal Staff Writer
Workers’ Compensation is a system that states use to compensate employees who experience some type of work-related injury. A work-related injury is typically classified as being sustained while doing something on the behalf of your employer or throughout the course of your employment that results in an injury or occupational disease/illness. In return for providing employees with workers’ comp insurance, employers essentially become immune to any employee tort litigation for nearly all work-related injuries, although some exceptions do exist. Workers’ comp is also unique in that it’s classified as a “no-fault” system, meaning employer or even employee negligence is rendered a non-issue when investigating claims and determining benefits . As a program, workers’ compensation was designed to supplement lengthy and expensive litigation, protect the interests of both parties while holding the employer accountable and render itself as being the sole employee remedy for work-related injury and illness restitution.
However, there are instances that allow the employee to bypass making a workers’ comp claim in its entirety and sue for damages instead, or in addition. Occasionally an injury involving a negligent third party (defective machinery, toxic substance, fellow employee) may be better suited for litigation. Also, an employer does not have workers’ comp coverage (i.e. an independent contractor), then the actual employer may be sued for the injuries sustained on its behalf. One of the major differences between filing a workers’ comp claim and pursuing legal action is that the injured employee is not prohibited from pursuing pain and suffering damages that a workers’ comp claim prevents them from attaining. For some—not all—employees, the employee tort litigation route can result in a significantly larger award and may better suited for their needs.
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