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Is Workers Compensation the Only Option for Injured Workers in Illinois?

| Dec 11, 2015 | Workers’ Compensation

According to the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA), an alarming 4,679 American workers lost their lives due to work related injuries in 2014. While that number is a significant improvement from the 14,000 work related fatalities seen 43 years ago, before OSHA was created, there is still a lot of improvement to be made. Additionally, approximately three million non-fatal workplace injuries were reported in the United States in 2014, and more than half of those involved time away from work or required job transfers or restrictions.

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Because workplace injuries often result in significant medical costs, extensive rehabilitation, and frequently have a severe impact on a family’s income, the state of Illinois requires that all employers carry workers’ compensation insurance.While workers’ compensation insurance is designed to provide injured workers and surviving families of deceased workers with monetary compensation to cover medical expenses and a portion of the worker’s lost wages, however, many times workplace injuries cause such significant financial hardships that workers’ comp simply isn’t enough.

Unfortunately, since workers’ compensation insurance protects employers from being sued for on the job injuries and illnesses, many injured workers and their families believe that no other legal action can be taken to provide them with adequate compensation for their losses. In many cases, however, that simply isn’t true. Since the laws vary from state to state, and a work related injury case can become extremely complicated, injured employees should consult with an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer to determine what type of legal action can be taken in their particular case.

Beyond Worker’s Compensation

In most cases, when a worker becomes injured or loses his or her life, the injured worker or surviving family members seek the assistance of an attorney who is experienced with worker’s compensation cases in their state. They often mistakenly believe that their employer is the only one liable for their injuries, and that they must settle for amounts paid for by worker’s compensation insurance. Since some workers compensation cases involve injuries that could also be classified as “personal injuries” which involve a third party, however, it is recommended that employees choose lawyers who are experienced in both areas of the law to ensure that all of their legal options are explored thoroughly.

When a Third Party is to Blame

The first step in any worker’s compensation case is to discover details about the injury. What happened, why did it happen, and, most importantly, who else could be held liable are the first three questions that should be answered. When these three factors are addressed, and the answers indicate that a third party could be to blame, a civil lawsuit may be considered. Since civil lawsuits are often more inclusive than workers’ compensation claims when it comes to the benefits that are covered, benefits for things like pain and suffering, which is not covered by workers’ compensation, can be sought. Examples of when a third party might be financially responsible for work related injuries include:

  • A truck driver or other driver who is involved in an accident while performing work can file a claim for worker’s compensation. If the accident was due to the actions or negligence of another party, however, a civil suit may be able to be brought against that person as well.
  • If the actions or negligence of a sub-contractor on a construction site causes a worker to become injured or killed, the sub-contractor might be held financially responsible for the accident.
  • When faulty equipment causes injuries or illnesses, the manufacturer of that equipment could be liable.

Employers Egregious or Intentional Conduct

While workers’ comp laws almost always prohibit an employee from suing his or her employer for injuries, even when negligence is discovered, but when the employer engages in egregious or intentional conduct, an exception is sometimes made. Contrary to workers compensation claims, however, that do not require proof of fault, in a case of egregious or intentional conduct, the injured worker is responsible for proving that the employer’s were certain to result in injuries and were deliberate.

Other Situations When Employees Can Sue Employers for Injuries

Employers are responsible for protecting their employees from undue harm. When they fail to do that, and knowingly expose their employees to products that could cause undue harm or injury, injured workers may be able to circumvent the system and sue them directly. Examples in which workers may be able to sue their employers for injuries include:

Additionally, when an employer fails to carry workers’ compensation insurance, an injured employee can sue the employer for medical costs and out of pocket expenses, full wages, and even pain and suffering.