EMPLOYEE CANNOT SUE EMPLOYER AFTER BEING INJURED ON THE JOB – EXCEPT FOR WORKERS COMPENSATION ONLY
If an employee suffers a personal injury or death while working, the employer usually must compensate the employee without regard to the question of negligence, i.e. regardless of whose fault the injury was. The Minnesota Workers Compensation Act was implemented in 1913 and was designed as a no-fault recovery system for employee work-related injuries. If the employer disputes that the employee was injured on the job, or that the injury is real, the issue is resolved in a special workers compensation court, not a standard MN district court. However, the only issues that can be decided are whether the employee is injured, whether the employee’s injury is related to the job and whether the treatment is reasonable and necessary. There is no need for the employee to prove that the employer was at fault or did anything wrong.
However, there is a trade-off that the employees have to make because of the MN workers compensation system. The part of the trade-off that is good for the employee is that the employee doesn’t have to prove the employer was at fault, and even gets workers compensation if the accident or injury is the employee’s own fault. The part of the trade-off that is good for the employer is that the employee’s workers compensation benefits are limited and the employee cannot sue the employer (or a co-employee) for pain and suffering even if the accident or injury is completely the employer’s fault. This is called the exclusivity or exclusive remedy provision. Even if the workers compensation insurance company denies a claim, the employer can still assert exclusive remedy as a defense to any lawsuit by the employee for an on the job accident injury.
However, there are a few exceptions to the workers’ compensation exclusive remedy provision, such as being able to sue a co-employee for gross negligence or intentional conduct – which basically then also allows a lawsuit against the employer – although successfully proving gross negligence is very difficult and rare. For the exclusivity provision of workers compensation to apply, an injury must arise out of the employment, must be in the course or the employment, and must not be caused by an intentional, directed assault. Intentional assault is more than just inadvertent reaction (e.g. quick hit) for poor performance.
Also, workers should know that although an injured employee may not be able to sue the employer or co-employee for causing an accident, the employee may be able to sue a third party (for example the manufacturer of a defective product, or another employer also at the job site, or another driver who causes a car accident and injures an employee while working – such as a pizza delivery person or mail carrier.)
The laws and insurance issues can be somewhat complex after a worker suffers a workplace or on the job injury. If you are injured on the job and would like to discuss your rights, you are welcome to call and speak with a personal injury lawyer at our office for a free consultation. We will listen to you and ask you questions about your situation so we can advise you of your rights.