Injuries at work can be caused by accidents, falling down, or a machine injury. Sometimes, repetitive motion causes harm. Examples are constant typing at a computer or handling of machine controls and parts. Other workplace hazards include exposure to toxic chemicals or loud noise.
Can I Sue My Employer
When injured on the job the answer is usually “no”. State workers compensation statutes provide defined benefits and as a result the law prohibits direct legal action against the employer outside of workers compensation. This is called the workers compensation bar.
Arising in the Course of Employment
The issue in a workers compensation claim is whether an injury arises out of and in the course of employment. This phrase covers a wide range of injuries. Injuries arise out of employment if they are caused by the nature, conditions, obligations or incidents of the employment.
Two factors are often considered in determining whether an injury arose in the course of employment:
- Whether it occurred within the boundaries of time and space created by the terms of employment,
- Whether it occurred in the performance of an activity related to employment, which may include a personal activity if reasonably expected and not forbidden or an activity of mutual benefit to employer and employee.
Such questions often arise when an injury happens away from the actual employer property, for example employees on an out-of-state long term assignment injured in an altercation or accident while driving home from dinner.
Going and Coming Rule
Normally, workers compensation will generally not cover injuries sustained while traveling to work or home from work. This is the “going and coming” rule. The exception requires special circumstances. An example of an exception to this rule would be running a special errand for the boss on the way to work or the way home.
Denial of Workers Compensation
Denial of workers compensation claims will be found valid where an employee engages in wrongful activity such as drug use, intoxication, self-inflicted injuries or what the law sometimes calls horseplay. Horseplay cases often involve employees fighting, pushing, jumping and in one case wrapping an employee in duct tape.
Employment Risks Within Workers Compensation
Employment related risks include all the obvious kinds of injuries normally linked to industrial accidents and are almost always compensable. Such cases include falling objects, explosives, and fingers being caught in gears. Slipping and falling comes under an employment-related risk if it results from an uneven or slippery surface on an employer’s premises. Other cases have included an eye injury due to inadequate light over long period, lung disease due to inhalation of granite dust, blindness due to repeated exposure to coal gas and bending, causing a hernia.
Determining whether, what and when benefits kick in requires an understanding of state workers compensation law. Retaining an experienced workers compensation attorney assures that the claim will be optimized.
The law varies state-by-state. My office represents workers compensation employees in Massachusetts and New Hampshire.