Can You Sue Your Employer Outside of Workers’ Compensation Court?

September 21, 2013

If you are injured on the job, recourse against an employer is usually limited to those remedies available pursuant to the New Jersey’s Workers’ Compensation Statute, N.J.S.A. 34:15-39.1. Those remedies include payment of medical bills, lost wages, and a permanency award if your accident is deemed permanent in nature. This is true even if your employer caused your injury. In limited situations, however, you may be entitled to sue your employer outside of workers’ compensation court.

In Millison v. E.I. DuPoint, the New Jersey Supreme Court allowed an employee to recover workers’ compensation benefits in addition to damages for pain, suffering, and disability on the basis that the employer intentionally caused the employee’s harm. Although situations under which courts have allowed lawsuits against employers outside of workers’ compensation law are limited, they are nonetheless possible. In one case, the court allowed an employee to sue his employer under this exception where the employer knowingly failed to correct several OSHA violations for a condition that ultimately lead to the employee’s injury. In another case, the court allowed an employee to sue his employer under this exception where the employer directed the removal of a safety feature on a machine that lead to the employee’s injury.

For more information, please see our page on Workers Compensation.


Workers’ Compensation Cases: Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Workers’ compensation law can be complicated and confusing to clients.  The following guide answers those questions that are frequently asked by workers compensation clients.

I was injured on the job.  What happens next?

If you are injured on the job, you must notify your employer as soon as possible.  If you require medical attention, you should also notify your employer as soon as possible.  Under New Jersey’s workers’ compensation law, the employer and/or their insurance carrier can select the health care provider that will treat you for your injuries.

Will I lose my job if I file a workers’ compensation claim against my employer?

Most clients are worried that bringing a workers’ compensation claim will result in their employer terminating them.  New Jersey’s Workers’ Compensation Statute, N.J.S.A. 34:15-39.1, however, protects employees.  The statute directly prohibits an employer from terminating an employee out of retaliation for filing a workers’ compensation claim.  Even if your workplace injury was the result of your own negligence, you are entitled to medical benefits, disability benefits, and a permanency award if your injury is permanent in nature.   If, however, your actions at the time you were injured violated a company policy, your employer may have a right to terminate you.  You would, nonetheless, still be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits.

If you have reason to believe that your employer terminated you for getting injured on the job or for filing a claim, you can file a discrimination complaint against your employer with Division of Worker’s Compensation.  If it is found that your employer retaliate against you will be restored to you former position and awarded the payment of lost wages.   If you have reason to believe that you employer fired you as a result of you disabling condition, as opposed to filing a claim, you may file a claim for violation of the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) against your employer

My insurance company is providing treatment and paying me disability benefits. Should I still file a workers’ compensation claim?

The answer to this question is yes, for three reasons.  First, in a workers’ compensation case, you can seek a permanency award, which will allow you to recover some of the money you lost while you were only collecting 70% of you pay.  Second, you will receive the payment of money, typically over a period that will supplement your income once you have returned to work. If you do not file a claim, you are allowing an insurance company to keep funds that would otherwise be paid to you. Finally, if you file a workers’ compensation claim, you will extend your right to seek future medical treatment because you retain the right to re-open your case in the future to seek additional medical treatment and workers’ compensation payments.

I was injured due to my own negligence.  Am I still entitled you benefits?

As discussed above, even if you were injured on the job due to your own negligence, you are still entitled to workers’ compensation benefits.  The reason for this is law workers’ compensation law was designed to require work injuries to be considered a cost of doing business.  So long as your injury occurred during the course of your employment, you are entitled to medical benefits, disability benefits, and permanency benefits if your injuries are permanent.  Employers also benefit from workers’ compensation law, as they cannot be sued for injuries arising out of their negligence.

Randolph H. Wolf has been helping workplace accident victims for over 30 years.  We know how to file a successful workers’ compensation application or appeal.  If you have been injured on the job, call the Law Office of Randolph H. Wolf today at (732) 741-4448 to schedule a free consultation.

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