Can you sue your employer after an accident?

Accidents and injuries can happen anywhere – and the workplace is no exception. Work-related injuries temporarily or permanently sideline thousands of employees in New Jersey every year.

Generally speaking, when you’re injured or sickened on the job, you don’t have the option of pursuing a personal injury claim. Instead workers’ compensation benefits are designed to be the “exclusive remedy” for your situation, even if your employer or a co-worker was clearly negligent. This can feel a unfair, especially when the replacement wages you’re getting don’t fully meet your family’s needs, there’s a long-term disability involved or when you realize that workers’ comp won’t cover any of your pain and suffering (which can be significant).

Are there any exceptions to this rule?

A lawsuit outside of the workers’ comp system against your employer may be possible in New Jersey – but only when your employer intentionally did something that caused a substantial risk of injury or death to you and/or other workers. For example, if your employer turns off a safety device on a piece of dangerous equipment in order to speed up the workflow, knowing full well that could result in crush injuries, amputations or death, that might qualify for an exception. While these are rare situations, they do happen.

What other options might you have?

More often, employees find that they have the ability to pursue compensation for their injuries outside of workers comp through what’s known as third-party liability. This is a personal injury lawsuit against some other party, aside from your employer, that contributed to your work-related illness or injuries.

Some common examples of when this is possible might include situations where:

  • You’re working on a road construction crew and you’re hit by a distracted driver
  • You’re delivering packages and you fall through the rotted boards on someone’s steps
  • You’re working a landscaping job and the defective equipment you’re using breaks in your hands

Because the civil claim and the workers’ comp claim are under two different systems, they can be pursued simultaneously. That can open up the door to much more compensation than you might otherwise get through either system alone.

Trying to understand your options after a workplace injury isn’t always easy, but seeking experienced legal guidance can help.

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