Getting More than Workers’ Compensation Benefits When Hurt on the Job
Alabama workers’ compensation laws do not provide sufficient benefits to people who are hurt on the job. Therefore, any good personal injury lawyer will always try to find another avenue to recover money in addition to workers’ compensation benefits.
The circumstances of how the injury occurred may allow for the lawyer to find additional compensation for the injured worker. While the majority of injured workers will be limited to workers’ compensation benefits, here a few exceptions in which additional compensation may be pursued:
1) When the injury was caused by the negligence of a “third party”
Under Alabama law, you cannot sue your employer or even a co-worker for negligence if you were injured on the job. However, if the person who negligently injured you was not your employer or co-worker (i.e. a “third party”), you can bring a claim against that person for compensation in addition to workers’ compensation benefits.
The most common situation involves an automobile wreck. For example, if you are a delivery driver and another person runs a red light and injures you while you are making deliveries, you would be entitled to both workers’ compensation benefits and damages from the other driver. Other examples include injury by a defective product while on the job or being injured on a job site by someone acting as an independent contractor.
If you successfully recover money from the “third party,” then the workers’ compensation carrier may be entitled to be reimbursed money it paid for your medical treatment. Nevertheless, it is almost always worth pursuing the third party case. In workers’ compensation cases, the injured worker cannot recover damages for pain and suffering and mental anguish. Yet in third party cases, the injured worker can recover all types of damages.
2) Willful Conduct of a Co-Employee
You cannot bring a claim against a coworker for negligence. But in rare cases, a coworker may injure someone in a willful manner. Alabama Code Section 25-5-11(c)(1) allows an injured worker to bring a claim against a coworker for willful conduct that caused the injury.
The Alabama Supreme Court has stated that to prove “willful conduct”, the injured person must prove that the co-employee acted with substantial certainty that injury would occur or acted with a design or intent to injure. As you may guess, these claims are difficult to prove, because the coworker will rarely admit to intentionally injuring another. However, a good lawyer can build a case with enough circumstantial evidence of intent.
3) Willful Removal of a “Machine Guard”
Alabama Code Section 25-5-11(c)(2) allows for an injured worker to bring a claim against a coworker, usually in upper management of the company, for the removal of a machine guard. The injured person must show that the guard’s primary purpose was for safety and that the guard was provided by the manufacturer of the machine.
The Alabama Supreme Court has interpreted the word “removal” liberally. Decisions of the Supreme Court have held that “removal” of a guard is the same thing as “failure to install” a guard, “failure to maintain” a guard, and “bypassing” a guard.
In almost all instances, when you are injured on the job, you are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. But if your injury is severe, you should contact a lawyer who specializes in workers’ compensation cases. A lawyer who specializes in this area can investigate the possibility of finding additional compensation.
At Siniard Law, LLC, A significant fraction of our workers’ compensation cases result in additional compensation because we explore every avenue to get the best result for the injured worker.