Can You Sue If You Accept Workers’ Compensation?
In general, the answer is no in Missouri. Under R.S.Mo. § 287.120, workers’ compensation insurance is the exclusive remedy for employees who are injured at work. The state requires all employers with five or more employees and all construction companies with one or more employees to carry workers’ compensation insurance or to self-insure. If your employer has workers’ compensation insurance, your sole remedy for recovering compensation for your medical expenses is to file a workers’ compensation claim with your employer’s insurance carrier. However, there are a couple of exceptions that might apply that could allow you to file a lawsuit.
Third-Party Negligence Claims
If your workplace accident was caused by someone who was not employed at your company while you were working, you can file a workers’ compensation claim with your employer and a third-party negligence lawsuit against the party who caused your accident and injuries. This scenario commonly occurs on construction sites that have multiple subcontractor companies performing work.
If you were injured by a negligent employee of a different company, you can file a lawsuit against that company while also recovering compensation through your employer’s workers’ compensation coverage. Third-party negligence lawsuits might allow you to recover more compensation than you might otherwise collect through your workers’ compensation claim, including pain and suffering damages and the difference between your workers’ compensation disability benefits and the value of the income losses you suffered.
One advantage of filing a workers’ compensation claim is that you can normally receive benefits immediately. In a personal injury lawsuit, it might take several months or years to recover damages. However, the benefits you can receive from workers’ compensation are limited. While your medical expenses will be fully covered, the disability benefits only cover a percentage of your previous wages and won’t include compensation for your non-economic losses or punitive damages.
If you are classified as an independent contractor instead of an employee, you can’t pursue workers’ compensation benefits. Workers’ compensation is based on the employee-employer relationship and only covers employees. Since an independent contractor is not considered to be an employee, they can’t recover compensation through a workers’ compensation claim. However, if the employer was negligent and caused your accident and injuries, you might be able to file a negligence lawsuit since you are outside of the workers’ compensation system. If you were misclassified and should have been considered an employee instead of an independent contractor, you might be able to recover workers’ compensation benefits. An attorney can review what happened and help you understand whether you have a viable claim.
In some cases, an employer will fail to purchase workers’ compensation insurance despite the legal mandate to carry it. If you are injured at work and try to file a workers’ compensation claim, only to learn that your employer is uninsured, you have a right to file a lawsuit against your employer. Missouri’s workers’ compensation law only shields employers and their employees against liability in a negligence lawsuit following a workplace accident if the employers carry the required workers’ compensation insurance. If your employer isn’t covered, then you are allowed to file a lawsuit to recover compensation for your economic and non-economic losses. Your employer can also face criminal liability for failing to carry workers’ compensation insurance in violation of the state’s workers’ compensation laws.
Talk to an Experienced Workers’ Compensation Attorney
The availability of workers’ compensation means that employees generally can’t file negligence lawsuits against their employers when they are injured on the job. However, you don’t have to prove fault to recover workers’ compensation benefits. If your workplace accident was caused by someone who was employed by a different company, you might be entitled to recover workers’ compensation benefits from your employer while also pursuing a negligence lawsuit against the party who caused your injuries. To learn more about your rights, call the Law Offices of Bryan Musgrave today for a free consultation at 417-322-2222 (Springfield) or 417-624-4258 (Joplin). You can also contact us online.