If you’ve been injured at work, then you may be entitled to workers’ compensation. These benefits are quite useful in that they do not require that you prove the employer engaged in any misconduct — instead, you need only prove that you were injured (through no fault of your own), and you will receive some form of benefit that can defray your losses.
Workers’ compensation may not always be enough, however, particularly in severe injury cases. At that point, some of the legal limitations can serve as a barrier. Let’s take a closer look at how to overcome these barriers and sue your employer directly.
Workers’ compensation laws — in Alabama and elsewhere — prohibit a negligence-based lawsuit against one’s employer by covered employees. Those employees must seek recovery through the workers’ compensation process.
This can be a problem, in part because workers’ compensation — though helpful — is not a complete form of recovery. It does not cover pain and suffering damages, for example, which in some cases can be substantial.
In Alabama, and in other states, employers are not completely shielded from a lawsuit simply because their employees are covered by workers’ compensation. In certain circumstances, an employer can be held liable — specifically, if the employer engaged in reckless or intentional misconduct.
How does this work? Let’s use two counterexamples to clarify.
Suppose that you are injured in a workplace accident. It turns out that your employer mistakenly failed to implement correct safety procedures (i.e., one of the safety procedures was improper). This contributed to the accident — and as a result, your injuries. Under the circumstances, however, it was mere negligence on the part of your employer. You would be entitled to workers’ compensation, but the prohibition against a lawsuit would still apply.
Now, assume that instead of a mere mistake, your employer knowingly implemented the incorrect safety procedures in an attempt to cut corners and save money. Under these circumstances, one could argue that the employer engaged in intentional misconduct. The employer would therefore not be protected by the workers’ compensation prohibition against a lawsuit. You could sue and recover from the employer in full.
Cross & Smith is a personal injury firm based in Tuscaloosa, AL, with a team of attorneys who have spent decades working with a range of plaintiffs — including those who have suffered injuries in the workplace.
We are committed to client-first representation and engage closely with our clients from start-to-finish, giving them an opportunity to keep us informed of any ongoing goals and concerns, and giving us an opportunity to craft a more personalized litigation strategy. This approach has helped us secure many significant results over the years, both in settlement negotiations and trial verdicts alike.