Some workplace injuries justify civil claims against employers

Are you suffering the consequences of on-the-job injuries that resulted from unsafe conditions in your workplace? You may want to hold your employer liable, but you cannot file a legal claim against your boss -- except under certain circumstances. According to the workers' compensation system, employers provide insurance coverage, and, in exchange, employees are not legally allowed to sue their employers if they are injured -- regardless of whose fault caused the injury.

There are exceptions

If you believe that your injury resulted from your employer's intentional negligence, you can file a claim in a civil court. These are tort claims, and they involve acts that unfairly cause harm to others that result in legal liability for the persons or entities who caused the suffering. Tort injuries include both physical and emotional damage caused intentionally. Examples of intentional torts that may justify civil claims include the following actions:

  • Assault -- when someone threatens to cause you bodily harm and has the ability to cause harm
  • Battery -- when someone physically acts upon a threat to harm you
  • False imprisonment -- when someone keeps you in confinement without any legal authority
  • Emotional distress -- when someone intentionally inflicts emotional trauma on you
  • Fraud -- when someone lies to you or misleads you, and thereby causes you harm
  • Defamation, slander and libel -- when someone spreads untrue information about you that causes damages
  • Privacy invasion -- when someone exposes your photos or personal information to others
  • Conversion -- when someone unlawfully takes possession of your property
  • Trespassing -- when someone enters your property or uses it without your consent

When third parties cause injuries

If your physical or emotional injuries resulted from the actions or negligence of another person who is not your employer, you might have a viable third-party civil tort. For example, if a defective piece of equipment caused your injury, you may hold the manufacturer liable. Or, if a driver from a delivery company knocks you down at your workplace, you may name that driver and his or her employer as defendants in a civil claim. However, if a monetary judgment is obtained after you have also received workers' compensation benefits, your company may require you to repay a portion of the recovery to replace the insurance money.

Other circumstances that may allow you to file a workers' compensation claim in a civil court are those in which your benefits claims with the company's insurance company were denied or rejected. However, this is a complicated process and typically best navigated by an experienced workers' compensation attorney. A lawyer can represent you throughout the appeals procedures that will include hearings by the workers' compensation board or nominated court. Only if this also fails can you turn to the civil court system of your state to pursue recovery.

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