What do you mean I can’t sue my employer after I’ve been hurt at work?

After suffering an injury at work, it is natural to wonder: Who is responsible? Who will pay my medical bills? My lost wages? How will I get back to work? How will I recover? Is there someone, something, some entity at fault?

It is not uncommon for these worries to be on your mind following a work accident. In fact, such concerns often lead injured workers to ask …

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The question: Can I and/or should I sue my employer?
The short answer: No, you cannot.

This question arises most often when an injured worker believes there was some wrongdoing by the employer, or an entity (insurance company, administrator) and/or person (supervisor, co-worker) directly associated with the employer.

Why not? The Workers’ Compensation Act as an exclusive remedy

 This is commonly referred to as the “Workers’ Compensation Bar.” In short, if you are an employee (as defined by the Workers’ Compensation Act), working for an entity that has two or more regular employees, and you sustain a compensable injury at work (arising out of and in the scope of your employment), you will be barred from pursuing any tort action against your employer. This “bar” can be found in Virginia Code §65.2-307.

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Aren’t I suing my employer for workers’ compensation benefits anyway?

As an injured worker, you are requesting benefits (medical, wage loss, etc.,) to be paid by the employer/employer’s workers’ compensation insurance carrier, pursuant to the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Act. This is different than filing a civil lawsuit against your employer for wrongdoing/tort.

What does this mean for my recovery?

The distinction between workers’ compensation benefits vs. a civil lawsuit is most glaring for injured workers when it comes to potential monetary compensation. Workers’ compensation benefits/resolutions, by law, do not include damages for pain and suffering. Workers’ compensation benefits are limited to those outlined by the Act and unfortunately, this excludes pain and suffering.

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Are there exceptions?

Yes, and exceptions to exceptions! However, these exceptions (aka – when you can file a civil lawsuit) are often extremely fact-specific. Moreover, the exceptions follow the same principle: you still can’t sue/aren’t suing your employer. If this sounds bizarre and tricky, don’t worry, you are not alone. The law is ever-evolving when it comes to the Workers’ compensation bar.

If you were hurt at work and have questions about how to pursue benefits, against whom, or when and how to do it, call the experienced workers’ compensation attorneys at Allen & Allen and we will help you protect your rights and maximize your recovery. For a free case evaluation, call 866-388-1307.