Most employers in New Jersey are required to provide workers’ compensation benefits to injured employees with nearly no regard to fault for the accident/injuries. In exchange for this benefit, workers’ compensation laws prohibit workers from suing their employers for accidents and injuries suffered at work.
This compromise is commonly referred to as the “exclusive remedy” provision, because workers’ compensation is essentially the only legal option for workers who have been injured. There is, however, one exception to the exclusive remedy provision and one alternative path for litigation, which we’ll discuss in today’s post.
When Employers Commit Intentional Wrongs
While workers cannot sue their employers for most instances of workplace injuries and illness, the law says they can sue in cases where the employer committed an “intentional wrong.” The wrong could be a behavior, an action or a knowing omission of action.
This is a difficult standard to meet in New Jersey. There are two criteria that that must be met for companies to lose immunity from employee lawsuits. Courts have held that in addition to acting or failing to act deliberately, employers must also have acted with substantial certainty about the outcome. This means that the injuries or illnesses the wronged employee suffered would have been a substantially certain outcome resulting from the employer’s wrongful act.
As stated above, this is a very difficult kind of claim for an injured employee to bring.
Third-Party Liability Claims
You generally cannot sue your employer for injuries suffered on the job. But if your injuries were caused by a negligent third party, you can sue that party in addition to seeking workers’ compensation benefits.
For instance, if you are a commercial driver and were struck by a drunk driver while on the job, you could file a personal injury suit against the drunk driver as well as filing a workers’ compensation claim. The same would be true if you were injured by a defective product used at work.
These claims are much easier to bring than intentional wrong claims, and many injured workers have successfully sought both workers’ comp benefits and jury awards or settlements from third-party lawsuits.
If you have been injured at work and want to better understand your legal options, contact our firm to arrange an initial consultation.