Can I sue my employer for my workplace injury?

You likely know about workers’ compensation and how you can apply to receive benefits if you suffer a work injury.

But, you may wonder whether you can simply sue your employer in civil court instead. Perhaps you may be thinking that, given your specific circumstance, you could recover a lot more money.

Workers compensation and the trade-off

In most cases, injured parties cannot sue their employers for their workplace injuries—even if the employer was negligent. Workers’ compensation was designed as a quid pro quo system, with benefits and drawbacks for both employees and employers.

Pros and cons for employees and employers

Employees benefit because they don’t have to endure expensive litigation costs. Injured employees will receive medical benefits and lost wages almost immediately. However, injured employees cannot receive certain types of compensation typically available in a civil suit. They cannot recover for pain and suffering or punitive damages under workers’ compensation.

Employers benefit from the system because they are not at risk of going insolvent from a large damage award if an employee sued and won in civil court. One downside, however, is that most employers must secure workers’ compensation insurance and pay the cost of premiums.

Two main exceptions to the rule

Like most areas of the law, there are exceptions to the inability to sue your employer for your workplace injuries.

1. Intentional or egregious conduct

In Oklahoma, if your employer intentionally injured you or committed an egregious act, you may be able to sue him or her for damages outside of the workers’ comp system. However, you must prove more than simple negligence. If you prevail, you can seek to recover pain and suffering and punitive damages.

2. Lack of workers’ comp coverage

In Oklahoma, you may also be able to sue your employer for damages in court for your workplace injuries if he or she has failed to obtain the mandatory workers’ comp insurance.

However, you may only be able to recover workers’ compensation benefits if neither of these exceptions apply to you. You won’t know for sure though until you speak to a professional. You may be surprised to learn that you could pursue a cause of action against a third-party in additional to your workers’ comp benefits. If, for instance, you were injured due to a defective piece of equipment, you could have a cause of action against the equipment manufacturer.

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