Rosenbaum & Rosenbaum, P.C. | May 23, 2022 | Negligence
Businesses in New York must have workers’ compensation insurance coverage for their employees. Injured workers can file a claim for workplace injuries to receive benefits. However, workers usually cannot sue their employers for negligence because of the exclusive remedy rule in the Workers’ Compensation Code.
What is the Exclusive Remedy Rule for Workplace Injuries?
According to New York Workers’ Compensation Law §29(6), workers’ compensation benefits are the exclusive remedy for workplace injuries and accidents. Therefore, a worker is limited to filing a workers’ comp claim if they are injured at work.
The good news is that an employee does not need to prove their employer was negligent to receive benefits. The bad news is that workers’ comp benefits do not cover all financial losses and damages caused by workplace injuries.
Are There Exceptions to the Exclusive Remedy Rule for Workplace Injuries in New York?
There are very limited exceptions to the exclusive remedy rule that allows an injured employee to sue their employer for negligence. An employee may sue their employer for negligence if:
- The employer does not have the required workers’ compensation insurance coverage for the injured worker
- The employer intentionally injured the worker
- The employee works for an employer that is not required to have workers’ compensation coverage, such as the Fire Department of New York, the New York Police Department, or the New York City Department of Sanitation
Unless your workplace injury falls under one of the exceptions to the exclusive remedy rule, you cannot sue your employer for negligence. Furthermore, the rule generally covers workplace injuries caused by a co-worker’s negligence. The exclusive remedy rule does not apply to an independent contractor unless the independent contractor is classified as a “special employee.”
Can I Sue a Third Party for a Workplace Injury in New York?
The exclusive remedy rule does not prevent you from suing a third party for negligence for workplace injuries. For example, if another driver causes an accident while you are driving for your job, you might have a claim against that driver for negligence.
Likewise, if a defective product causes your workplace injury, you could sue the manufacturer for negligence under product liability laws. Other examples might include negligence claims against contractors or property owners.
You have the burden of proving the other party was negligent in causing your injury. The legal elements of a negligence claim for workplace injuries are:
- Duty – The third party owed you a duty of care to exercise a reasonable level of care to prevent injuries
- Breach of Duty – The third party’s acts or omissions breached the duty of care
- Causation – The third party’s breach of duty was the direct and proximate cause of your workplace injury
- Damages – You sustained damages because of the third party’s breach of duty
As with other negligence claims, if you were partially to blame for the cause of your workplace injury, New York’s contributory fault laws could reduce the amount of money you receive for damages. Contributory fault does not apply in workers’ comp claims, however.
Examples of Workplace Injuries That Might Result in a Third Party Negligence Claim
Workplace injuries can occur for many reasons. Examples of situations that might give rise to a negligence claim include, but are not limited to:
- Construction site accidents
- Motor vehicle accidents
- Injuries caused by defective equipment or products
- Exposure to toxic substances
- Animal attacks on the job
- Property owner negligence
- Intentional torts
It can be challenging to determine whether you have a negligence claim after a workplace injury. An experienced workplace accident lawyer can review your case and advise you of your legal options for filing a workplace injury negligence claim.
Damages for Workplace Injuries Caused by a Third Party
Suing a third party for negligence in causing workplace injuries can result in much more compensation than you can receive for a workers’ comp claim. Workers’ compensation is limited and only compensates you for a portion of your lost wages. It does not compensate you for your pain and suffering.
- Past and future medical bills
- Disabilities and permanent impairments
- Past and future lost wages and benefits
- Physical pain and suffering
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Diminished earning potential
- Emotional distress
- Out-of-pocket expenses
- Mental anguish
- Long-term nursing care
- Household services and personal care
- Decrease in quality of life
The deadline for filing a negligence claim for workplace injuries depends on the type of case. The statute of limitations for filing claims for many personal injury cases is three years from the injury date. However, there are exceptions, so it is best to seek legal counsel as soon as possible after a workplace injury.