Can I Sue My Employer for a Work-Related Injury?
August 5, 2014
In Wisconsin, nearly all employers are legally required to purchase workers’ compensation insurance on behalf of their employees. Although this is good news for those who hold jobs in the state, it is also important to understand that you would not be able to sue your employer after suffering an injury on the job—even if it was caused under negligent circumstances. Since the workers’ compensation system is seen as an “exclusive remedy,” this is one of the only ways in which an injured employee could secure reimbursement for the cost of their medical treatment, missed work and permanent disabilities. Make no mistake, however, these benefits can still be substantial. For this reason, you should not hesitate to pursue this alternative course of action after being involved in a workplace accident.
But what if your employer intentionally, recklessly or illegally contributed to your injuries, rather than carelessly or negligently? Under Wisconsin law, you could hold them liable for providing a 15% increase in your resulting compensation. In order to do so, however, you will need to prove that they had a) violated safety regulations, b) failed to use proper safety devices or c) disobeyed an established safety rule. If you can show that your employer had engaged in any of these reckless behaviors, you would be entitled to an increase in compensation—which is capped at a maximum of $15,000. Unfortunately, the same would apply if you, yourself recklessly contributed to your own harm. If you had failed to adhere to safety regulations, for example, you may be subject to a 15% decrease in compensation.
On another note, you must also understand that you have the right to seek damages from a third party—meaning someone other than your employer or coworker—if you were negligently injured on the job. This type of lawsuit can be filed concurrently with your workers’ compensation claim, as one does not have bearing on the other. You must be able to prove that a third party’s negligent actions have contributed to your injuries, however, which would be the case if you were harmed by an inadequately designed piece of machinery, for example. You could choose to bring suit against the manufacturer of the faulty equipment, as they would be considered a “third party.” This type of claim would subsequently allow you to pursue damages for non-economic damages, as well as those afforded through workers’ compensation.
Regardless of the circumstances under which you were injured, it is recommended that you move forward under the guidance of a Milwaukee workers’ compensation attorney from Welcenbach Law Offices, S.C. Contact our office immediately at (414) 774-7330 for a free initial consultation.