When Emanuel Law Group potential client contacts our firm with a work-related injury, we do not only evaluate whether a workers’ compensation claim can be brought against the potential client’s employer. We also evaluate whether a civil law claim can be made against a third party (a person or company that is not the potential client’s employer). The reason is that the civil claim may result in significantly greater compensation to the injured worker than the workers’ compensation claim.
For example, if the potential client is making a work-related delivery, and some unrelated person/company injures them, the workers’ compensation system will provide medical care and disability payments, the latter not being a complete compensation. However, the civil law system provides compensation for medical care and full lost wages, both past and future. The civil system will also provide for very valuable “pain and suffering” compensation: the workers’ compensation system does not.
If an employer has not provided the mandatory workers’ compensation insurance for its employees, the employer can be sued in civil court, unless the employer has adequate self-insurance coverage. The benefit to the injured employee in this setting is significant. The employer’s negligence is presumed, the employer cannot claim that the injured employee was themselves negligent, plus other benefits. The typical problem with this scenario is that the employer cannot afford workers’ compensation and likewise, has no significant assets to attach.
Where the injured employee’s employer was itself hired by a separate entity, then the injured person may be able to sue that separate entity outside of the workers’ compensation system, in civil court. The analysis whether this option is possible can be complicated. A major consideration is whether hirer of the injured person’s employer has controlled safety and affirmatively contributed to the injury. Another consideration is whether the injury resulted from a known unsafe concealed condition that the separate entity hirer knew or should have known existed.