Workers' Compensation is essentially an insurance program run by the state of Alabama, which offers medical benefits and wage replacement for employees who sustain a job-related injury. In Alabama, every employer with more than five employees is required to participate in the insurance program. Typically, filing a Workers' Compensation claim is your only recourse when you are injured on the job, and filing a claim precludes you from also filing a lawsuit in court. However, there are some specific situations where you may be able to file a lawsuit as well.
The various types of benefits provided by Workers' Comp
Workers' Compensation benefits generally include payment of medical expenses related to the job-related injury, compensation for lost wages due to the inability to work, vocational rehabilitation, permanent partial disability benefits, or total disability benefits. Workers' Compensation also provides benefits for occupational diseases, such as asbestosis or black lung disease.
Lawsuits against an Employer Outside of Workers' Compensation
In certain circumstances, an Alabama employee may have the right to sue their employer, outside of the Workers' Compensation process. There are generally four bases for filing a lawsuit relating to a Workers' compensation injury: intentional acts causing injury, sexual harassment, an employer's failure to maintain appropriate Workers' Compensation insurance and retaliation for filing a Workers' Compensation claim.
Intentional Acts Resulting In Harm
If your employer or a co-worker does something intentional that causes you harm or injury, you may be able to file a lawsuit. For instance an employer may intentionally remove safety equipment from dangerous machinery or knowingly refuse to correct a safety violation, which ultimately results in your work-related injury. In those cases, you may have the basis for a lawsuit.
Retaliation for Filing for Workers' Compensation
Although a retaliation claim is not directly related to a workplace injury, employees still have a right to compensation for this illegal conduct. Employers in Alabama are prohibited from taking adverse employment actions against employees for filing Workers' Compensation claims. This includes termination, demotion, and other employment decisions, based on the fact that you filed a Workers' Compensation claim.
Suing a Third Party for Work-Related Injuries
You may also have a potential claim against a third-party that is related to your work-related injury. For example, you may file a lawsuit against a negligent driver if you were injured as a result of an auto accident while you were on duty. Another common example would be an injury caused by a defective product, like a tool or piece of machinery, if the injury occurred while you were performing your job duties. In that situation, you may have a strict liability claim against the product manufacturer, even though the injury occurred while you were at work. In cases against a third-party, you may be required to reimburse your employer for Workers' Compensation benefits you have already received, if it is determined that the third-party was actually responsible for your injuries.
If you feel you have a potential Workers' Compensation claim, or if you have any questions regarding your employment rights, please contact the experienced employment attorneys at Wrady & Michel, LLC, either online or by calling us at (205) 265-1880.