Workers’ compensation is employer-provided insurance that offers financial compensation to employees who are injured performing work-related activities. The way this type of insurance works is that when an employee is injured, they notify their employer and file a workers’ comp claim. The employer is also responsible for notifying the Missouri Department of Labor Workers’ Compensation Division. By filing for and accepting workers’ compensation insurance, an employee is essentially waiving their ability to file a lawsuit against their employer. In this sense, workers’ compensation can be viewed as a system to protect employees and employers alike, but is there ever a case in which an employee can file a lawsuit against their employer?
One reason an employee may be able to file a lawsuit against their employer is wrongful termination due to an injury. Unfortunately what sometimes happens is that employers will not want to pay workers’ compensation or deal with being shorthanded, so they let an employee go because of their injury. Most employers will give another reason for firing their employee, because illness or injury is not sufficient reason to terminate employment. Although these types of lawsuits originate with injuries, they do not fall under the category of personal injury so much as they do workers’ rights and Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) issues.
Another possible reason for bringing a civil suit against your employer is if they failed to obtain the required workers’ compensation insurance. In the state of Missouri, all employers that employ five or more employees must insure those workers with workers’ compensation from an authorized insurance carrier. This includes both full and part-time employees. Also, all employees in the construction industry, regardless of how many employees are working for a company, are entitled to workers’ compensation coverage. For these types of lawsuits, you must be able to prove that your employer was negligent in causing your injury or illness.
Any disputes regarding a workers’ compensation claim are dealt with by way of administrative hearings and non-court disputes/appeals. Personal injury lawsuits are filed in civil court, which is the major difference. A lawyer may prove beneficial to you whether your work injury case is primarily a workers’ compensation case or a civil court case. If you are not able to file a lawsuit against your employer legally for any reason, then you may still have hope to file a civil lawsuit against a third party.
Third party lawsuits are civil claims filed by an injured worker (or family of the decedent, in wrongful death cases) not against the employer, but against an outside, third party. For example, say a painter was severely injured after falling from a ladder at work. He collects workers’ comp insurance to pay for his medical treatment, rehabilitation, etc. but hires an attorney to see if there is additional areas for compensation. What could happen here is a claim against the ladder manufacturer if it can be proved that the ladder was defective, and that defect led to the fall accident.
All rules and regulations about workers’ compensation insurance in Missouri can be found in chapter 287 of the Revised Statutes of Missouri. You have rights as an employee and should be familiar with those rights so that you can seek justice after an accident or injury at the workplace. Fox Goldblatt & Singer PC provides high-quality representation for injured workers and can secure them the compensation that they both need and deserve. Call today if you would like to receive a free evaluation of your case.
For additional information about workers’ rights under Missouri law, visit the Missouri Bar’s FAQ page.