The bottom line answer is yes. A business is legally obligated to prevent workplace accidents. Employers should do everything possible to prevent employee accidents on the job. Businesses should maintain a safe environment for vendors, clients, visitors, and others.
Operating a business requires that business owners shoulder many duties. Employee health and safety must always be a priority. If a worker is injured on the job, an injured employee can receive workers’ compensation insurance. However, there are at least five situations in which the employee may sue for compensatory damages caused by a workplace injury:
#1: Defective Product Injury
If an employee is injured at work using a defective product, he or she might have the option to bring a products liability lawsuit against the product manufacturer.
Let’s say that Jill was using a defective binding machine to compile reports. She burns her hand using the product and needs medical attention. She might file a claim against the binding machine manufacturer to pay for medical bills, lost wages, pain, and suffering.
#2: Toxic Substance Injury
If an employee was injured using a toxic substance, he or she may be able to bring a toxic tort action against the substance manufacturer.
In this example, Jack is using a paint stripper product in his employer’s furniture restoration shop. Although he uses the product according to instructions, the fumes cause him to fall and hit his head on the workshop floor. Jack may have the option to file a lawsuit to compensate for emergency room costs, medical bills, lost income, and pain and suffering.
#3: Intention or Egregious Employer Conduct
If an employee is injured because of an employer’s “intentional” or “egregious” conduct, he or she may choose to file a personal injury claim against the employer.
For instance, if the employer demanded Sally to accomplish a certain task without the proper safety tools, she might be able to bring an action against the employer to pay for medical bills, lost income, and pain and suffering when she is injured.
#4: Third-Party Cause of Injury
If a third party, such as a client of the employer, caused Julia (an employee) an injury, she may have the option to file a claim against that party.
When Julia is carrying a client’s package to his company vehicle, the client pulls away from the curb. Julia is injured by the client’s actions. She may have the right to sue the client to pay for medical costs, lost wages, pain, and suffering.
#5: Employer Doesn’t Carry Workers’ Compensation Insurance
Most states require employers to carry workers’ compensation insurance. If an employer fails to buy workers’ comp insurance, the injured employee may have cause to file a civil suit against the employer or collect from the state’s fund.
In this example, Melinda sustains a repetitive motion injury. (According to Liberty Mutual Insurance, employees’ repetitive motion injuries cost employers more than $15 billion each year.) She works as an accountant for the employer. Because the employer doesn’t have physical laborers on staff and cash flow is tight, he doesn’t pay the workers’ compensation policy premium. Melinda can’t work and files a claim against the employer for medical costs, lost wages, pain, and suffering.
Summing It Up
Most responsible employers pay the workers’ compensation insurance premium so that if an employee is injured or becomes ill on the job, a financial safety net exists. An employer’s industry may increase the likelihood of employee injuries. Depending on the business you operate and the tasks your employees perform, you may have few or many workers’ compensation claims each year.
Recognize that most workplace injuries are preventable and it’s important to take all steps necessary to safeguard employees on the job. If you were injured in a workplace accident, talk to a personal injury or Brooklyn workers compensation lawyer to learn about your legal options.
Thank to our friends and contributors from Polsky, Shouldice & Rosen P.C. for their insight into workers compensation insurance.