On-the-Job Injuries and Your Rights

Any job site, or office location, comes equipped with its share of risks. Sure, some forms of employment make you more vulnerable to on-the-job injuries than do others; a construction worker, for instance, is probably more at risk for a work-related physical injury than is, say, a librarian. But a librarian can still trip over stacked books or get struck by a poorly-stabilized bookshelf. The point is, as our Delray Beach personal injury lawyers know, workplace accidents are far too, and all too, common. In this blog post, we are going to tell you about some of your rights in seeking compensation after an on-the-job injury.

First, let’s quickly survey the most common types of on-the-job injuries. As we noted above, construction work injuries are particularly common. According to U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration, out of 4,251 reported worker fatalities in private industry in the year 2014, 20.5% were in the construction sector. Per OSHA statistics, the leading causes of deaths on construction sites were, in order of descending prevalence, falls (40%), electrocution (8.5%), being struck by an object (8.4%), and getting caught in between large objects or materials (1.4%). Other types of common injuries include overexertion due to lowering and lifting (in construction, material transportation, etc.) and injuries due to repetitive motion (manufacturing, etc.).

In general, if you have been injured due to the wrongdoing of someone else (whether in an auto accident, or a slip-and-fall at the grocery store, etc.), you can hire a personal injury lawyer and bring a civil negligence action. However, when it comes to injuries sustained at work, there is a whole body of regulatory law that can, and does, in many cases, prevent you from bringing an action against the negligent party (i.e. your employer). That body of law is called Workers’ Compensation.

Workers’ Compensation, or “Work Comp,” is a form of insurance, obtained by employers, which provides funds for loss of income and medical benefits to the employers’ employees who were injured in the course and scope of their employment. The trade-off is that employees, while they are guaranteed some form of compensation through Work Comp, automatically surrender their right to bring a private civil negligence action against their employer. But as our personal injury lawyers at Aronberg & Aronberg know, there are exceptions to the Workers’ Comp prohibition on private suits against an employer whose negligence caused you physical injury.

A major case, the result of which has proven incredibly beneficial to those who have been injured due to the wrongdoing of their employers, is called Laidlow v. Hariton Machinery Co., and it was decided by the New Jersey Supreme Court in 2002. Because negligence, and tort in general, is part of what we call the “common law,” rulings from out-of-state courts can prove to be relevant and persuasive. That is, in the absence of statutes dictating exactly how to handle all of these issues, all we, and the courts, have to go by is what courts have done in the past: and Laidlow is a great example of a court deciding a common law issue with implications all across the country.

In Laidlow, the court held that despite the fact that the employee was covered under Workers’ Comp, that employee could still file a private civil negligence lawsuit against his employer (i.e. the employer would not be shielded by Work Comp) when the employee can prove that the employer knew with substantial certainty that its actions would result in harm to the employee and the injury which resulted was not part and parcel of the type of work the employee did. As our personal injury lawyers know, a similar case in Florida, Turner v. PCR, Inc., held that employers do not enjoy immunity from a lawsuit by an employee when the cause of action is an alleged intentional tort.

From these rulings, we can infer that a plaintiff who has been injured due to the intentional acts (or, per the court in NJ, acts which the employer was “substantially certain” would result in harm to the plaintiff) of an employee might not be limited by Work Comp – that is, while Work Comp will still provide a benefit to the injured employee, it will not prohibit him from seeking the full amount he feels he is owed.

If you have any questions about this or any other personal injury issue, please contact our Delray Beach personal injury lawyers at the Law Offices of Aronberg & Aronberg by calling 561-266-9191 or by emailing us at daronberg@build.simple.biz. We look forward to assisting you!

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