INJURED ON PROPERTY ACCIDENT WHILE WORKING – CAN WORKER SUE PROPERTY OWNER IN ADDITION TO GETTING WORKERS COMPENSATION?
We received a call yesterday from a nice man who works as a custodian at a church. He was injured on the property when he was lifting something heavy (a piano) with another person, and the other person dropped his end. The caller was receiving workers compensation for his serious injury, but wanted to know if he could still also sue the owner of the property because he was injured on their property. The answer, as usual, is “it depends.”
Generally, in Minnesota, workers compensation is the exclusive remedy for a person injured on the job. This means a worker can usually not sue a co-employee or the employer or business owner for negligence in causing the work injury. However, there are some exceptions to this general rule where you can still sue the property owner even though you are receiving workers compensation. First, the injured worker can sue a third party that contributed to the accident. For example, a pizza delivery driver can collect workers compensation benefits and still bring a claim against a driver that ran a red light and hit him. Likewise, our lawyers have represented postal workers who fall and are injured on private property while delivering the mail. A worker can also sue a property owner who is not his employer, for example an office building where the elevator fails, and still collect workers compensation benefits. However, if the employer owns the building or property, the worker will not be able to sue the employer as a property owner. In the case of the caller mentioned above, the custodian could not sue the church for the injury with the piano because he worked for the church.
Another exception in the workers compensation law is when the employer or a co-employee is grossly negligent. This situation rises very rarely and requires the employer or co-employee to commit an intentional act that could injure another worker, and show almost no regard to the worker’s safety. Our lawyers are currently working on a case like this where a worker was driving an ATV on the job with another worker as a passenger, and the driver drove very recklessly resulting in the ATV rolling over and injuring our client.
If you have been injured at work and think you may have a claim against a third party in addition to workers compensation, please call us and speak with a lawyer for a free consultation. An experienced attorney will discuss your case and explain your rights to you.