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Can I sue my employer instead of filing workers' compensation?

Usually, workers' compensation is meant to be the "exclusive option" available to injured workers. Essentially, in order to have coverage under workers' compensation -- which will cover your injuries even if you are at fault for the accident that caused them --- you legally give up you ability to sue your employer for negligence instead.

The idea is to keep cases out of the courtroom whenever possible. Of course, it doesn't always work out that way because it is possible to sue your employer directly in some cases. You may also have a good reason to bring a lawsuit against a third party, if another person or company is partially at fault for your injuries.

You can sometimes sue your employer directly your employer purposefully harmed you somehow. For example, if your boss assaults you in an argument over your work schedule or purposefully traumatizes you emotionally in some way, that's intentional damage that removes your case from the workers' comp arena. Similarly, if your employer knew you could be seriously injured by a handling a toxic chemical and did nothing to stop you, that could be considered an intentional injury.

Far more commonly, workers end up suing their employer because they've simply been denied fair compensation for their injuries through workers' compensation. Employers can be a little too eager to keep workers' comp costs under control -- when they do that, and injured employees suffer as a result, a lawsuit is often necessary to put things right.

Finally, you may have a good case when it comes to leveling a lawsuit against a third party if your injury is due to some defective machine part or defective maintenance of a machine owned or serviced by another company.

Workers' compensation entitlement claims that also involve regular negligent lawsuits can rapidly become highly complex. Look for an attorney who can help you through the process as easily as possible.

Source: FindLaw, "Workers' Compensation: Can I Sue My Employer Instead?," accessed June 30, 2017

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