Say you go years and years without a single workplace accident, and then disaster strikes. You’re not sure how it happened – all you know is that your employee got seriously hurt and is probably going to be on partial disability for a while. You hear some of your staff saying it was the employee’s fault, but some are saying the workplace wasn’t safe to begin with.
Could legal action be on the way? Should you call a lawyer?
When one of your employees is injured at work, Workers’ Compensation Insurance is usually enough to handle the aftermath. But there are some instances when you may need legal advice, depending on what your employee does.
Let's take a look at how lawyers factor into the Workers' Comp process.
Exclusive Remedy's Role in Limiting Workers’ Comp Lawsuits
In many cases of employee injury, Workers’ Compensation Insurance may shield your business from lawsuits altogether. How?
Most states' Workers' Comp laws have a provision called the “exclusive remedy rule.” This ensures that the employee can’t sue you for medical costs if your insurance has already covered them. If their injuries aren’t covered by Workers’ Comp, they probably have no reason to sue you because their injuries may not be work-related.
In other words, in most cases, you probably won’t need a lawyer. Your legal responsibilities can be met so long as you maintain a Workers’ Compensation Insurance policy that meets your state's coverage requirements.
However, there are exceptions to that rule. For example, you may need a lawyer if…
- The insurer won’t cover the claim, so the employee tries to get a settlement from the insurance company. Your business may be dragged into the struggle.
- Your business is sued over the negligence that caused the employee injury. Exclusive remedy may not prevent these lawsuits.
Now that you understand the rules that govern Workers' Comp a little better, let's explore the policy that addresses negligence in work injury lawsuits.
Employer’s Liability Insurance and Negligence Claims
Most Workers’ Compensation Insurance policies have Employer's Liability coverage, but you should check to be sure. Employer’s Liability Insurance can help you out when an employee claims your business's willful negligence caused their work injury. When you're sued, the coverage can pay for…
- Legal defense fees.
- Court costs.
- Judgments or settlements.
In many cases, the insurance company provides a lawyer if you’re facing this kind of lawsuit (so long as you have the appropriate coverage). To learn more, read "What Is Employer’s Liability Insurance?"
To Lawyer Up or Not to Lawyer Up?
To summarize, for run-of-the-mill Workers’ Comp claims, an insurance policy is probably going to be enough to solve liability issues and take care of your injured employee.
But on the chance that your employee comes after you with claims of negligence, it may be in your best interest to talk to your insurance provider and get a lawyer.
For more information on work injury claims, see "How Do I File a Workers’ Comp Claim?"