Can I file a lawsuit and claim workers' compensation at the same time?
UPDATED: February 20, 2013
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Since a claim under the workers' compensation system is intended to provide the employee with a remedy for any injury or illness arising out of the course of employment, workers comp claimants are typically prohibited from bringing a separate lawsuit for negligence against the employer.
The Workers Compensation System
The workers compensation system is meant as a sort of “strict liability” system, meaning that as long as an injury or illness occurred on the job in the performance of one’s job-related duties, the injured party is to be compensated. There is no need for the employee to prove fault or negligence on the part of the employer. From a public policy perspective, because this form of strict liability creates an effective alternative to litigation, it generally forbids litigation. (The system is “effective” in that it provides everyone who meets its requirements with a legal “remedy”). In the law, statutes that embody this idea are usually called “exclusive remedy” provisions.
Lawsuits Against Third Parties
However, this does not preclude bringing a lawsuit against third parties that may be at fault. For example, if you are injured at work but someone outside your company caused the accident to happen, e.g. - a wire cable installer negligently hid a wire that caused your trip and fall, then you may file a lawsuit against the third party (i.e. - the cable company in the example).
In addition, if your employer does not carry workers' compensation coverage, you may be able to sue the employer based upon its negligence or fault for your injuries. There are also some harassment claims that may be brought as a state civil action or a federal cause of action. This is becoming more common in, among others, sex harassment claims. A workers’ compensation attorney can help you pursue all available remedies.