Most of the time, you cannot sue your employer for personal injury in California. This is the rule that most attorneys know.
However, when you are injured at work, there are two things you should know. First, you have a workers’ compensation claim automatically, regardless of who was at fault, so long as your injury is covered by California workers’ compensation law.
Secondly, you may have a possible lawsuit against someone else other than your employer. The necessary question to ask is: Did someone other than who I work for cause or help cause my injury? If so, you have what attorneys call a “third party case” or “third party lawsuit.” What this means is that you have a case against the person or corporation who caused your harm, even if it occurred while you were at work.
Let’s look at an example: Let’s say you’re injured on a construction site. If you are the operator of a heavy piece of equipment, and an accident occurs when a chain breaks and a beam falls on you, you have a case against the person who made the chain and/or maybe against the person who built the machine, even if you do not have a case against your employer.
These cases are called third party cases, and are extremely important when there is a serious injury or death. In these instances, it’s crucial you speak with a California personal injury lawyer as soon as possible.
The reason you cannot sue your employer is because of a California law that states the exclusive remedy is the workers’ compensation system. Ideally, this system is supposed to work in favor of both employers and employees. Employers are immune to personal injury lawsuits by providing insurance to cover injuries. Employees, on the other hand, are able to get compensated quickly without having to go through the legal system.
Understanding When You Can Sue Your Employer for Your Injuries
There are exceptions to this general rule, of course. These are complex legal concepts, but we will explain them in plain language as best as we can. When there is an exception, you can sue your employer. You may sue your employer if the employer falls into one of these categories:
- Act in a dual capacity
- Fraudulent concealment
- Employer assault or ratification of that assault
- Power press
- Uninsured employer
What do these mean? Here is a brief explanation of every category.
Dual Capacity: If the employer acts outside of their role as the employer, you may have a case against them. For example, if the employer makes toasters, and the toaster, not the employment environment, causes the harm, the toaster in the second capacity leads to this exception.
Fraudulent Concealment: If the employer covers up the injury and the connection of the injury to the workplace, and further harm occurs because of this cover up, the employer does not have the protection of the workers’ compensation exclusive remedy rule.
Employer Assault: If the employer assaults you, or supports the assault on you, you can sue your employer.
Power Press: If there are guards on a power press that are removed, the employer can be sued directly. This is because people kept losing their hands in power presses, and this exception was specifically carved out to try to prevent these injuries.
Uninsured employer: If the employer does not have workers’ compensation insurance, you may be able to sue them for your injuries.
How do I Sue My Employer?
If your injury falls into one of these categories, you may have the right to sue your employer. In order to successfully file a personal injury lawsuit in California after a workplace injury, your first step is to seek medical attention as soon as possible. Be sure to describe your injury, including what caused it, to the doctor. Keep track of your medical bills, plus any treatments prescribed to you.
You should also make sure you write a report of what happened, with details including when and where the accident happened, any injuries incurred, and other important details. Provide a written report to your employer; you may want to email a PDF version of the report to them so there is a legitimate paper trail that shows you made your report.
Then, contact an experienced California personal injury lawyer. They can help you explore all of your legal options, and represent you both in and out of court during the legal process. Your attorney will need to gather evidence to build your case, so if you can provide medical bills, diagnosis information and more, it will help your lawyer greatly.
Speak to a California Personal Injury Lawyer Today
If you have been injured at work, and your injury doesn’t fall under workers’ compensation law, it’s important to speak to a California personal injury attorney as soon as possible. At Ernst Law Group, we will evaluate your case for free and help you explore all of your legal options. Call us at (805) 541-0300 or contact us online for a free, no-obligation consultation today.