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When Can You Sue If You Were Hurt On The Job?

Sep 29th, 2020

In Colorado, if you are hurt on-the-job the general rule is that you are covered by worker’s compensation no matter whether you or someone else was at fault for your injuries. As a trade-off for the certainty of this coverage, injured workers are not allowed to sue their employers for negligence.  Worker’s compensation coverage includes payment for your medical bills, lost wages up to a capped amount, and impairment according to the capped worker’s compensation schedule.

But people with serious injuries often find that worker’s compensation does not pay for a significant portion of their damages, especially their pain and suffering and permanent impairment damages.

There are however situations when you can both bring a negligence claim (sue) and receive benefits under worker’s compensation when you are hurt on-the-job.  Those situations commonly happen when someone other than your own employer is at-fault for your injuries.  Injuries on construction sites are a good example.  Sometimes a subcontractor’s actions can cause you a serious injury on-the-job. In one case, we represented a young man who worked for a subcontractor at a construction site.  A different subcontractor was using a concrete pump which became plugged, because it had not been properly primed. The hose of the concrete pump hose-whipped our client, who fell down into the foundation of the building and suffered a traumatic brain injury.  Our client received both worker’s compensation benefits and successfully bought a negligence claim against the subcontractor who did not properly prime the pump.

Another example of a situation where you can bring a claim for negligence and receive worker’s compensation benefits is when you are hurt on-the-job in a car crash. If you are driving on-the-job and someone outside of your company hits you, you can both sue the at-fault driver and receive worker’s compensation benefits.  You can also bring a claim for uninsured or underinsured motorist benefits under your own car insurance when the at-fault driver does not have enough insurance.

Additionally, your own uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage must pay for your damages even if someone working for the same company as you hurts you in a car accident.  For example, we represented a man who was hurt on-the-job when another employee on duty for the same company accidentally drove a truck into him. Our client was able to receive worker’s compensation benefits and underinsured motorist benefits, even though he otherwise would not have been able to sue the company or the driver that hit him because of workers compensation.  The reason for this is that the public policy of uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage is to provide insurance whenever the insured is not fully compensated by the other driver.

In sum, if you are seriously hurt on-the-job and are not at-fault, although the general rule is that you cannot also sue, there are situations where you can.  There are also situations where you can receive compensation from your own insurance in addition to workers compensation benefits.  If you have suffered a serious injury and are not sure, you should have a personal injury attorney look at your situation.