Workers’ Compensation: Can I Sue Instead?
Ohio law, backed up by multiple state Supreme Court rulings, make it extremely difficult for an injured or ill worker to sue an employer. The same is true for family members who lose a loved one to an on-the-job accident. Applying for workers’ compensation is almost always the better way to receive coverage for medical and rehabilitation expenses, compensation, and income replacement.
Generally, an employee or a designated family member can only file a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit against an employer when one of the following three situations occur.
- The company or agency does not participate in the Ohio Workers’ Compensation program. Such a situation is extremely rare since registering with and keeping current on contributions to the program are standard requirements for obtaining and keeping a business or nonprofit license. If an employer does have a waiver from workers’ comp program participation, it will need to carry its own insurance policy that operates almost identically to Ohio Workers’ Compensation. Taking such a self-insured plan to court is possible under certain circumstances, but such a legal action is different from a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit.
- The employer acted recklessly. This is often difficult to prove since negligence can be quite severe without rising to the degree at which a judge or jury will consider it reckless behavior. Showing recklessness requires presenting evidence that the employer and its representatives did almost nothing to protect the injured or ill employee from harm. For instance, failing to replace old equipment is negligent, while failing to upgrade equipment after regulations called for doing so might be considered reckless, but also might not.
- The manager or supervisor intended to harm the employee. Such a situation could also trigger a criminal case, though the standard for proving intent in a civil personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit is lower than it is for case involving assault or manslaughter. Testimony from co-workers and, usually, a record of communications and statements that document the intent to harm will be needed by the individual who files the lawsuit.
Anyone who thinks one of these scenarios resulted in leaving them or a family member too disabled to work or dead should consult with an Ohio workers’ compensation lawyer. Pursuing a lawsuit does not necessarily negate the right to apply for and receive workers’ comp benefits.
Speaking with an experienced and knowledgeable attorney will also help the victim of a work-related accident understand whether grounds exist to sue a third party other than the employer and its representatives. The maker or seller of a dangerous or defective product such as a tool, chemical, vehicle, or safety device can have liability for injuries or illnesses suffered by the people who use those unsafe products.
You can schedule a free appointment with an Ohio workers’ compensation lawyer by calling the Columbus, Ohio, offices of Agee Clymer Mitchell & Portman at (614) 678-3318 or connecting with us online. If your health makes traveling to our office impossible, we can come to you.