Under Rhode Island law, all employers are required to maintain and provide workers’ compensation insurance to cover on-the-job injuries. In most cases, workers’ compensation acts as a “no-fault” system, allowing employees to get fast access to benefits while protecting the employer from a lawsuit. However, there are some claims where negligence may be considered, significantly affecting the amount an injured employee can recover.
When Negligence and Liability Affect a Workers’ Comp Case
Workers' compensation is considered the "exclusive remedy" for an employee to recover damages against the employer. This means, the injured worker cannot sue the employer directly after a work-related injury, even if the employer was negligent. While fault generally doesn’t matter in a workers’ compensation claim, it may have a bearing on claims involving negligence of:
- The employee. Workers’ compensation usually will not cover injuries that arise purely from negligent actions of an employee. Common workers’ compensation coverage exceptions include intentional acts, horseplay, or injuries that occur when an employee is intoxicated.
- Coworkers. Under workers’ compensation law, injured employees usually cannot sue coworkers who cause an injury at work. However, this only applies to coworkers who are classified as employees. If an injury is caused by an independent contractor or someone who works for a different employer, he can be subject to an injury lawsuit.
- Third parties. Employees are often injured due to a third party’s negligence, such as equipment malfunction or improper maintenance. In these cases, workers can file a product liability claim against the manufacturers or distributors of defective products. If a non-employee caused the injury (such as the at-fault driver in a crash involving a company vehicle), the employee will likely have grounds for a personal injury claim.
It is always worth considering whether someone could be held liable for a work-related injury. Workers’ compensation provides limited benefits to injured employees, but a third-party claim can provide payment for medical treatment and disability, as well as pain and suffering damages to cover the full costs of a severe injury.
Contact Kirshenbaum & Kirshenbaum by filling out the easy online contact form on this page, or call us to set up a consultation with our work injury attorneys.