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What are my legal rights if I am injured on the job?

In the past, when an employee sustained an on-the-job injury he or she would simply file a workers’ compensation claim and receive benefits covering medical expenses and a reasonable percentage of lost wages. Most employers under state laws are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance. It’s a “no-fault” system, meaning the program provides benefits in exchange for the injured employee losing the right to sue the employer.

However, according to a report by NPR, numerous states have begun tearing apart the workers’ compensation programs – to the detriment of the hundreds of thousands of workers suffering work-related injuries every year. Cutbacks are leaving injured workers fighting to get adequate medical treatment and enough in compensation to pay for the basics, and some have been driven into poverty.

Unable to work and paid only a small percentage of their regular wages, these injured workers are left with nowhere to turn. Taxpayers are being forced to cover the costs associated with workplace injuries, as injured workers have no other option than to seek aid from federal programs such as Social Security Disability Insurance, Medicare, and Medicaid to provide financial compensation for the costs that are no longer covered by workers’ comp.

While employers are paying the lowest rates seen since the 1970s, injured employees are suffering. This raises the question: if your employer’s workers’ compensation does not cover the costs associated with your workplace injury or your employer opts out the program despite eligibility, do you have the right to sue?

What Can I Do If My Employer Does Not Have Workers’ Comp?

Employers who are eligible to obtain workers’ compensation insurance, but opt not to carry this insurance, and third parties whose negligence may have contributed to an employee’s injuries, may find themselves facing legal action. In these situations, injured employees can seek justice and financial remuneration for their work-related injuries by filing a personal injury lawsuit.

Once an eligible employer chooses not to participate in the workers’ compensation program, that employer loses all of its common law defenses, such as contributory negligence or others. In these cases, it will not matter whether you were partially responsible for what happened. As long as it can be proven your employer was even one percent at fault for your injuries, an experienced attorney will be able to help you file a lawsuit to recover damages.

When to File a Third-Party Lawsuit

In the event a third party’s negligence contributed to the injuries you sustained in the workplace, you can file a lawsuit to recover damages. One example is when a manufacturer’s negligence resulted in a defective product or tool being sold to an unsuspecting customer, such as you or your employer. You expect the product to function in a certain way. When it doesn’t due to its defective condition or design and you are injured, you potentially have a products liability claim against the manufacturer of the tool. As long as evidence exists to prove your injuries were caused by a faulty or defective product, a failure to warn or similar issues, you will have grounds to pursue damages through a third party lawsuit.

In simple terms, if someone other than your employer played a role in causing your workplace injuries, filing a third party lawsuit could be a possible course of action for you to pursue.