Virtually all employers in most states of the United States are covered by a legally compulsory worker’s compensation program. Even when worker’s compensation is not compulsory, companies often choose to purchase insurance voluntarily and policies typically include Part One for compulsory coverage and Part Two for non-compulsory coverage.
Under worker’s compensation, an employee who is injured on the job receives medical care responsive to the workplace injury, and, in some cases, payment to compensate for resulting disabilities. Compensation is not awarded on the basis of the worker demonstrating that the employer was at fault, nor can compensation be denied if the worker’s negligence contributes to the injury. In accepting compensation, a worker foregoes the right to sue an employer, but this immunity from lawsuits is not absolute and the limits to this immunity are something that employers must be aware of. Below we underline the major limitation of immunity from lawsuit.
1. Deliberate or Intentional Injury to an Employee
Workers’ compensation covers work-related damages, or more precisely, damages for events that can be expected to arise from the execution of a job. Those injuries that arise outside the normal course of work are acts of intentional tort, an act with the intent of harming or causing damage to another person.
The scale of damages payable by an employer can be astronomical and depend on the offence.
2. Injuries caused by Non-compliance
Every business must comply with a set of state and federally mandated employment and occupational health and safety laws to protect employees against sustaining injuries. Employers who fail to comply with these guidelines become personally liable in the event of injury befalling an employee. If you, as an employer, choose not to comply, you will be personally liable and in some instances there are specific provisions that you can be sued directly.
An employer must be aware of the health and safety risks entailed in being in the business and protect the company workers, otherwise, the business becomes vulnerable to lawsuits.
3. Toxic torts
Workers who handle toxic and volatile chemicals are generally protected by workers’ compensation programs but may sue outside their program using toxic tort law.
4. You are the manufacturer of the equipment that caused the injury
If a worker is injured working for you and the machinery that caused the accident happens to be manufactured by you, and you knew the dangers and did not inform the workers, you are liable to lawsuit. Let’s say you employ someone as a machine operator on a construction site. You can be sued in terms of the healthy employee-employer relationship, and as part of a product-liability case against you in your capacity as the manufacturer of the defective equipment.
5. You cover up the injury or deny the claim
Employers who cover up an employee’s injury or the connection between the injury and the workplace can be sued for the cover-up and perhaps even be held personally liable.
6. You decided not to take out workers’ compensation insurance
Immunity from lawsuits does not exist for those who do have workers’ compensation coverage for their employees and you can find yourself facing off personal injury attorneys even in cases of ordinary negligence not just for financial losses but also current and future non-financial losses.
7. The injured person is not technically your employee
If someone you hire as an independent contractor is injured in the course of his work, you will not qualify for workers’ compensation immunity.
In some states, some professions are not considered employees for the purposes of workers’ compensation. So though they may not be due workers’ compensation, they can sue you directly if they prove that their injury was due to your negligence.