Personal Injury

When Can You Sue Outside of Michigan Workers Compensation?

michigan workers compensation

According to a recent report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were approximately 2.8 million nonfatal workplace injuries in 2017. More than 800,000 of them resulted in days away from work. That’s on top of the 5,147 fatal work-related injuries.

If you’re like most Americans, you can’t afford to stay away from work, and you definitely can’t afford to not work while paying medical bills.

You may have been told that workers compensation is your only option. But in some cases, Michigan workers compensation laws and insurance aren’t the only choice. Keep reading to find out when you can file a lawsuit for damages outside of workers compensation.

You CAN Sue Outside Workers Compensation…

Workers compensation is a system used to provide wage replacement and medical and rehabilitation benefits to employees following a work-related injury. Typically, employers either purchase a workers’ compensation policy through an insurance company or are authorized to self-insure.

In many cases, workers compensation is a good choice. Generally, it’s also the only choice.

But in some cases, you do have other options. Here are a few specific instances where you can file a lawsuit for further damages.

If Your Employer Doesn’t Have Workers Compensation Insurance

Most of the time, employers hold a workers’ compensation policy under their insurance provider. Almost all states are required to carry this insurance except for a select few (Michigan does require employers to carry insurance). Under this policy, any employee injured on the job is entitled to benefits, regardless of fault.

On the off chance that your employer doesn’t have workers comp insurance, you are eligible to sue them in civil court. This would make the case a personal injury case and not a workers’ compensation case, which means you are able to sue them for full damages incurred, including:

  • Lost wages
  • Lost earning potential
  • Medical bills
  • Rehabilitation bills
  • Future medical expenses
  • Permanent disability
  • Pain and suffering
  • Loss of enjoyment of life

However, because it’s a personal injury case, the lawsuit is contingent on your ability to prove your employer’s negligence.

If You Were Injured by a Third Party at Work

Since most states require employers to carry some form of workers’ compensation policy, you cannot bet on suing them on those grounds.

There are, however, certain instances where you can sue a third party even if you are on the job working for your employer who has a workers’ compensation insurance. You can’t sue your employer, since your employer is protected by the workers compensation act, but you can sue the third party, even if you collect workers’ compensation benefits.  Additionally, even if your employer has some degree of fault for the accident, you can still sue the third party as long as the third party also is partially at fault. Under this scenario, there will be an allocation of fault stated in percentages, between your employer and the third party.  You can’t collect on the percentage attributed to your employer but you collect compensation from the third party based on the percentage attributed to the third party.

For example, let’s say you’re driving for work. While driving, you get hit by another driver and seriously injured in the accident. In this case, you can file a personal injury lawsuit.

If you were injured by another employee or a third party at work, you may be able to sue your employer. However, this is only possible if you can prove that your employer was aware of the potential danger posed by the employee and took no precautions to protect other workers.

If Your Employer’s Conduct was Intentional and Egregious

In most states (including Michigan), workers compensation laws and policies are designed to prevent civil lawsuits. An employee will receive benefits following a workplace injury, regardless of who was at fault for the accident. Since they receive benefits either way, they cannot sue their employer for full damages, even when the employer or a co employee was at fault for the accident.

There is one exception to this  rule. In most states, if an employer intentionally or knowingly caused harm to an employee, or took no action to prevent harm that they knew would likely occur, then an employee can sue for damages beyond workers compensation benefits.

If you can prove that your employer’s behavior was intentional and/or egregious and that their actions caused your injuries, this waives the lawsuit protection built into workers compensation laws If this could be the case for you, it’s important to talk to your lawyer about how to prove the case.

If You Were Injured by a Toxic Substance

The law holds that it is your employer’s obligation to protect you from harm and injury.

They breach this obligation if they knowingly or carelessly expose their workers to toxic substances, such as:

  • Asbestos
  • Benzene
  • Chromium
  • Radium
  • Silica

In these cases, employees can bypass workers compensation protections to directly sue their employers on toxic tort grounds.

If You’re Not Covered Under Workers Compensation

Most employees are covered under workers’ compensation policies and thus may not be eligible to sue their employer for damages under most circumstances.

However, there are some employees who aren’t covered under workers compensation at all. Their employers are just as responsible for protecting their workplace safety.

In Michigan, workers not covered under workers compensation include:

  • Some agricultural employees
  • Some domestic workers
  • Certain small employers
  • Undocumented workers
  • Some real estate agents/brokers
  • Crewmembers of vessels
  • Interstate railroad workers

If you’re a seaman, you’re protected under a federal law called the Jones Act, which, among other things, authorizes you to sue your employer for damages. If you’re an interstate railroad worker, you can sue your employer for damages under the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA). Other employees who aren’t covered can seek personal injury damages in civil court.

Do You Have a Case Outside Michigan Workers Compensation?

If you think you may have a case outside of the benefits offered to you by Michigan workers compensation policies or you are not sure, you need to speak with an attorney.

Your attorney is your advocate. Their job is to fight for your rights. Let them advocate for you from the beginning.

At Giroux Pappas Trial Attorneys, we understand the devastating effect an injury can have on you and your family. That’s why we fight for you as if you were our own family member, taking the time to understand your individual needs and your case to give you the best legal guidance possible.

If you need to speak with an attorney, or just want to talk about your options, click here to schedule a free consultation.

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Andrew Laurila's Bio

Andrew’s personal history inspires his passion for seeking full justice for his clients that have experienced serious injury. Following law school, he represented insurance companies, insurance policy holders, and companies in personal injury cases. He saw firsthand how insurance companies treat injured people. He turned this unique insight into the motivation and skill to achieve great outcomes for those injured and seeking their rightful benefits from the insurance companies.