Employees who suffer an illness or injury at work can file Workers’ Compensation claims to recover damages. They don’t have to prove that their suffering resulted from the negligence of their employer. However, any OSHA violation or negligent behavior by an employee that causes the workplace injury can have legal consequences for a company.
Employer Negligence vs. Workers’ Compensation Claims
Under traditional personal injury law, an injured person has to prove the following to be entitled to compensation by another party:
- That the party owed the victim a duty of care
- The party neglected or breached that duty of care
- The party’s negligent behavior by omission or commission caused the victim to suffer injury/damages
However, Workers’ Compensation systems, which are created by state law, don’t require injured employees to prove that their employers’ negligence was responsible for their on-the-job accident. They allow injured workers to recover damages/costs such as medical expenses, physiotherapy, and partial lost wages while preventing them from suing their employer for a work-related injury or illness.
When Injured Employees Pursue Personal Injury Damages
Workplace injury can cause suffering and damages beyond what the injured worker is entitled to thru Workers’ Compensation benefits. To recover damages for pain and suffering, the injured worker may file a personal injury claim against their employer. They can also do that to recover more than lost wages if they are unable to ever return to work as a result of a workplace incident.
What OSHA Says About Workplace Safety
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulates workplace safety. This federal agency requires employers to provide safe work environments with any applicable safety features, such as fall protection and protective gear for employees for example. Employers that violate OSHA regulations can pay hefty fines for it. In one incident, OSHA proposed a $1.3 million penalty against a company whose two workers died in a workplace accident. Claims against the employer included failing to inspect the worksite for hazards and not implementing adequate safety measures.
Can an Injured Employee Sue for an OSHA Violation?
When injured workers want to pursue more than the Workers’ Compensation benefits, they are entitled to, they might look for evidence of an OSHA violation. Whether or not they’re successful in doing that can vary by jurisdiction. In many cases, courts have ruled that an employer’s intentional OSHA violation does not remove their legal protection against a personal injury claim. Nonetheless, some courts have established that breaching OSHA regulations can be a factor in deciding whether an employee can pursue a work-related injury claim outside the Workers’ Compensation system. Remember that even if a court upholds the bar on a personal injury lawsuit against a company, a third party may still pursue action against the company if there is evidence of an OSHA violation.
Due to the risk and high potential costs, it is in the best interest of employers to provide and maintain a safe workplace. PMC Insurance Group provides comprehensive Workers’ Compensation solutions and risk management services for all types of businesses. For more information contact us at [email protected]