In general, people who have been injured as a result of someone else’s negligence may make a negligence claim against the party that was at fault. Negligence claims allow injury victims to recover for pain and suffering. Workers’ compensation, however, is a no-fault system where benefits are payable to an injured worker regardless of whether the injury was caused by the negligence of the employer, the injured worker or a co-worker. Fault does not play a role in the workers’ compensation system.
Therefore, an injured worker may not make a negligence claim against his/her employer. The only remedy an injured worker has against an employer for a work related injury is to collect workers’ compensation. The injured worker may not sue an employer for pain and suffering even if the injury was caused by the employer’s negligent, reckless or intentional act. An employer is simply not liable to an injured worker for anything other than workers’ compensation benefits for on the job injuries.
However, if an injury was caused by the negligence of someone other than the employer or co-worker, then that other individual or company may be sued for negligence. For example, if a person is driving for his employer and is injured in a car accident, then the injured worker may sue the individual who caused the accident. If a person is injured while operating a machine because the machine was designed poorly, then the injured worker may sue the manufacturer of the machine for negligence. If a person working for a sub-contractor on a building site is injured because of an unsafe work site, he/she may sue the general contractor for negligence. If a person slips and falls because of a defective condition, then the owner of the land or building as well as any company responsible for maintenance may be sued for negligence, provided that it is not also the employer.
A negligence claim allows an injured worker to recover for the cost of medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. The insurance company that paid workers’ compensation benefits is entitled to be reimbursed from any money that is received from a negligence claim to recover its payments of weekly compensation and medical expenses.