Getting injured on the job is a common occurrence. Each year, there are millions of reported job-related injuries, and it is likely that just as many, if not more, go unreported.
In California, most employees who get injured on the job are limited to filing for workers’ compensation. California, like most other states, has a mandatory “no-fault” workers’ compensation system, and employees who are eligible for workers’ compensation are generally excluded from suing their employers for job-related injuries. However, there are exceptions, and not all workers are legally classified as “employees” under California law.
So, can you sue your job for a work-related injury? Here’s what you need to know:
When Are Injured Employees Limited to Filing for Workers’ Compensation?
Under California law, the default rule is that employees are limited to filing for workers’ compensation when their employers provide workers’ compensation coverage. This is because California’s workers’ compensation law provides employers with immunity from their employees’ personal injury lawsuits in most cases.
Essentially, the law provides a tradeoff: Employers have to pay workers’ compensation benefits regardless of who is at fault for their employees’ injuries. In exchange, employers are protected against the risk of negligence claims from injured employees.
When Can Injured Employees Sue Their Employers in California?
While the default rule is that employees are limited to filing for workers’ compensation, there are exceptions. Specifically, an employee can sue his or her employer if:
- The employer does not have workers’ compensation insurance coverage. In order to receive immunity under California’s workers’ compensation law, employers must actually provide workers’ compensation coverage. If your employer is not covered, then you can sue for your on-the-job injury.
- The employer fraudulently conceals the employee’s work injury. If your employer has information that you may have been injured and does not provide this information to you, this “fraudulent concealment” may entitle you to fully recover your losses. This most commonly arises in situations in which an employer is aware of toxic exposure (i.e., mold or asbestos exposure) in the workplace and withholds this information from its employees.
- The employee is physically assaulted by his or her employer or a coworker. If you are physically assaulted by your employer, then you can sue your employer for full compensation. Additionally, if you are attacked by a coworker and your employer “ratifies” your coworker’s conduct (i.e., if your employer fails to step in to stop the attack), this can also provide grounds for filing a personal injury lawsuit.
- The employee’s injury is unrelated to his or her employment. If your employer manufactures or sells a product and you were injured by one of your employer’s products on your own personal time, you may be able to file a product defect claim against your employer. Likewise, if you slipped and fell on your employer’s premises while you were off-duty, you could potentially have a premises liability claim as well.
- The employee is injured by a modified power press machine. The California courts have also recognized a limited exception to the state’s workers’ compensation law that applies in cases in which an employer has modified a power press machine to remove a manufacturer-recommended safety guard.
If you are unsure whether you can file a lawsuit against your employer, it is in your best interest to contact an experienced work injury lawyer to discuss your options.
What If I Am an Independent Contractor, Not an Employee?
California’s workers’ compensation law provides coverage to workers who are legally classified as employees. Independent contractors generally are not protected by California’s workers’ compensation statute. While this means that they cannot file claims for benefits, it also means that they are not prohibited from suing the companies they work for.
Sometimes, employers will mischaracterize their employees as independent contractors in order to avoid payroll taxes and certain other liabilities. So, if you receive a 1099 instead of a W-2 (or if you are paid under the table), you should consult with an attorney promptly in order to determine what type(s) of claim(s) you can file.
Can I Sue Another Company for My Job-Related Injury?
Even if you are limited to filing a workers’ compensation claim with your employer, this does not necessarily mean that you are limited to recovering your medical expenses and a portion of your lost wages. You could have a personal injury claim against a third party.
If an individual or company other than your employer is to blame for your job-related injury, then you may be able to sue this third party to recover full compensation. Some examples of potential job-related third-party claims include:
- Injuries caused by defective tools, machinery, and safety equipment
- Injuries caused by dangerous premises
- Injuries caused by negligent employees of contractors and subcontractors
- Injuries suffered in vehicle collisions
- Injuries suffered in assaults and animal attacks
The liable parties in these cases vary. Your lawyer will investigate the circumstances immediately to determine who is at fault for your injuries.
Discuss Your Case with Bakersfield, CA Job Injury Attorney Mickey Fine
Workers’ compensation law is complicated. The Law Offices of Mickey Fine has decades of experience representing injured workers in a variety of industries:
Were you injured on the job in Bakersfield, CA? If so, attorney Mickey Fine can help you recover just compensation for your on-the-job injury. To find out if you can file a personal injury claim against your employer or another negligent party, please call (661) 333-3333 or contact us online today for a free consultation.