Workers’ compensation claims and personal injury lawsuits

| Jul 19, 2016 | Workers' Compensation |

Louisiana residents may wonder why injured workers generally file workers’ compensation claims rather than filing lawsuits against their employers. Workers’ compensation legislation was introduced to provide a way for those who are injured on the job or who develop a work-related illness to receive monetary benefits regardless of who was at fault. Most injured workers require financial assistance promptly when they are no longer bringing in a paycheck, and litigation can be a lengthy and expensive process.

Workplace accidents and injuries are also fairly common, and the civil courts would be congested with cases involving injured workers if workers’ compensation laws had not been introduced. The laws protect employers from lawsuits while ensuring that injured or sick workers receive the help they need to make ends meet until they are able to return to work.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is tasked with ensuring that employers follow proper safety protocols. This is particularly important for workers engaged in dangerous occupations like construction, mining or logging. OSHA keeps careful track of violations, and investigations are generally launched after major accidents or outbreaks of illness. While these efforts are generally designed to prevent future accidents, the results of OSHA investigations may also be used by personal injury attorneys to determine if a lawsuit may be more appropriate than a workers’ compensation claim.

While workers’ compensation programs are designed to assist rather than enrich injured employees, civil litigation adds the possibility of punitive damages. Workers’ compensation laws are written partly to prevent injured workers from filing personal injury lawsuits, but there is an exception that allows litigation against employers with a disregard for the safety of their workers that amounts to an intentional will to cause harm. Workers could also file a lawsuit when their job-related injury was caused by a non-employer third party, such as the manufacturer of a defective piece of machinery.