When Workers’ Compensation is Insufficient

By Peter DePaolis

Proponents of workers’ compensation systems champion benefits for both employers and employees. For employers, workers’ compensation keeps costs down, the argument goes. Instead of facing a constant barrage of lawsuits, employers provide guaranteed medical care to employees regardless of fault for work-related injuries. Employees, on the other hand, do not have to deal with insurance companies or the legal system to receive treatment for work injuries. Sometimes, however, workers’ compensation is insufficient.

Two Florida theme parks are facing lawsuits recently filed for employee deaths. In July of 2009, a monorail driver died in a train collision at Walt Disney World, and, this past February, a killer whale killed its trainer at SeaWorld. Family members of both of the victims have filed lawsuits against the company despite strong business and workers’ compensation laws in place in Florida that would ordinarily cap payments available in the death of an employee.

More and more often, we see companies use workers’ compensation as a way to cut corners on safety measures. If workers’ compensation shields businesses from lawsuits and costly litigation, the business can save money by employing less costly safety measures while knowing that workers’ compensation will cover any accidents in a cost-effective manner. If a workplace danger has hurt you or a loved one, a Washington, D.C. personal injury attorney can help you hold negligent employers responsible.

Handling Workplace Injuries Outside of Workers’ Compensation

While workers’ compensation does, in most cases, preclude an employee from suing his or her employer for a workplace injury, employees can always file a lawsuit against negligent third parties. If the negligence was due to someone outside of your company, normal legal remedies will be available to you. For example, negligent third parties could be a utilities worker or a manufacturer of a dangerous product.

If you fall under a workers’ compensation system, you can file a lawsuit against your employer in two circumstances. Both require extensive documentation and strong arguments to prove your case.

  • Intentional harm. This conduct must go beyond even gross negligence. Your employer must have intended to harm you.
  • Inadequate workers’ compensation coverage. You can sue your employer if it does not maintain the level of workers’ compensation insurance that federal or state law requires.

Both workers’ compensation claims and lawsuits pertaining to workplace negligence involve strict deadlines and their own sets of laws and procedures. It is important to consult with an experienced attorney as soon as possible following a workplace injury. To protect your rights in the event of a workplace injury, contact a Washington D.C. personal injury lawyer at Koonz, McKenney, Johnson & DePaolis L.L.P.

About the Author
Peter DePaolis joined the firm in 1980 and has since represented a large number of individuals involved in automobile collisions, truck accidents, bus crashes, defective products, and medical malpractice cases. A significant portion of Mr. DePaolis’ practice is devoted to working on behalf of people suffering from asbestosis, mesothelioma, and other asbestos-related cancers. He has led his firm’s fight against the asbestos industry and has recovered over $30 million in damages for asbestos victims and their families.