Hundreds of thousands of workplace accidents result in injuries in the United States every year. Many of those accidents are caused by the carelessness or incompetence of others. When an employee is injured by a coworker, what kinds of legal recourse are available for the victim to seek compensation to cover the damages caused by the incident? Is coverage under Workers’ Compensation a possibility? Are there other ways for an injured worker to recover losses caused by a coworker? Is it necessary to prove who is at fault in order to secure compensation for such injuries?
This discussion explains what workplace solutions and legal remedies are available to employees who have been hurt at work as a result of the actions of a coworker.
Workers’ Compensation Benefits for Employees Injured by a Coworker
The most important factor that affects an employee’s right to collect Workers’ Compensation has to do with whether the accident happened in the course of performing one’s job. If the injured employee was actively performing their job, the injury should be covered under the employer’s Workers’ Compensation benefit. By contrast, if the injury was sustained on company property while the employee and a coworker were engaged in horseplay on their lunch break, the injury is unlikely to be covered by the program.
Conditions that Make an Employee Eligible for Workers’ Compensation
As stated, the injury must have occurred as a direct result of the employee performing their job. However, the details of the injury may be somewhat vague with regard to what constitutes job-related actions. For example, an employee who works as a welder need not be injured while actively welding in order to qualify for Workers’ Compensation. The welder may simply slip on a wet floor near their workstation or be accidentally cut by a sharp object on company grounds.
In other words, the definition of what actions fall under the category of those that happen in the course of performing one’s job is broad. Therefore, acceptable work-related actions include actions such as walking from a workstation to a conference room or assisting with an odd task, even if they are not part of their official job description.
Cause of the Accident and Workers’ Compensation Benefits
If an employee is hurt at work while performing their job, those conditions are usually enough to ensure coverage of their claim under the employer’s Workers’ Compensation program. Though the company is likely to perform a thorough investigation into what went wrong, the only outcome that would negate the eligibility would be if the so-called accident was purposeful on the part of the injured employee themselves or if the employee sought to defraud the system in some way.
Involvement of an At-Fault Coworker and Benefits under Workers’ Compensation
Workers’ Compensation is a mutual benefit insurance program between the employer and employee that offers compensation to injured workers while providing some protection to employers from legal liability related to workplace injuries. The involvement of another worker in the accident should not affect the injured worker’s eligibility.
One aspect of Workers’ Compensation that should be noted is that it does not require any proof of fault or negligence. Responsibility for the accident does not need to be established in order for the benefits to start to help the employee with the fallout from the accident, such as help paying for medical bills related to the injury or payment for lost wages incurred while recovering.
Therefore, the relevance of who caused the accident does not usually factor into the equation with regard to Workers’ Compensation, although the issue of fault could have implications for other legal avenues, such as a personal injury lawsuit. Regardless of having collected Workers’ Compensation benefits, an injured employee may be able to sue if, and this is important, if the accident involved negligence on the part of the at-fault coworker or the employer. However, a successful lawsuit is likely to involve a higher payout and may require repayment of previously collected Workers’ Compensation benefits.
Can the Coworker be Sued for Accident-Related Compensation?
If it is provable that the actions of a coworker caused serious injuries, it might be worth taking the issue to court. Although it is unlikely to be worth the cost and trouble of a lawsuit for a small claim that is already covered by Workers’ Compensation, a lawsuit may be called for in a case that involves a serious injury that results in substantial damages. This may be the case if limits that exist as part of the employer’s Workers’ Compensation program do not cover the entirety of the losses suffered.
A third-party lawsuit against an at-fault coworker may yield compensation for medical costs and lost wages over the limits placed on employee benefit claims. In addition, a lawsuit allows for claims for pain and suffering unavailable under Workers’ Compensation.
However, suing a coworker may not be successful if the at-fault party does not have resources to cover the claim. A lawyer may be able to help determine if this is the case.
Claim of Negligence Against the Employer if the Accident was Caused by a Coworker
Although the existence of the Workers’ Compensation program is intended to ward off lawsuits directed at the employer, such litigation is still possible. Usually only undertaken in cases of severe injury, a personal injury suit against an employer must prove that the employer breached a duty of care to protect the employee from the actions of the at-fault coworker. This is likely to involve having to prove that the employer knew the coworker posed a danger to others and did nothing about it.
Cherry Hill Workers’ Compensation Attorneys at Kotlar, Hernandez & Cohen, LLC Get Results for Employees Injured in Work Accidents Caused by a Coworker
If you were injured at work because of a coworker’s carelessness, you should be able to collect compensation through your employer’s Workers’ Compensation program. Reach out to the Cherry Hill Workers’ Compensation attorneys at Kotlar, Hernandez & Cohen, LLC to determine if negligence is at play in your case. If your accident involved negligence on the part of the responsible coworker or your employer, you may be able to file an additional personal injury case for damages related to your accident. Call us at 856-751-7676 or contact us online for a free consultation. Our offices are in Mount Laurel, Cherry Hill, Trenton, and Vineland, New Jersey; and Trevose, Pennsylvania. We serve clients throughout New Jersey and Pennsylvania.