What if I was at Fault
The quick answer is NO. It does not matter.
For the purpose of workers’ compensation, it does not matter if you caused your own injury. The Connecticut workers’ compensation system is a no-fault system of insurance for injured workers. This means that a worker injured in the workplace is covered regardless of who is at fault for the injury.
For example: if a kitchen worker slices their own finger with a knife while cutting vegetables, the case is covered. The plain fact that the worker cut themselves does not come into play. So long as the worker was on the job and acting within the course and scope of their employment, the injury is covered by workers’ compensation insurance.
Also: if a factory worker dropped a heavy box on their foot, the worker’s injuries are fully covered by workers’ compensation insurance. The fact that the heavy box slipped out of the worker’s hands will not be held against the injured worker’s ability to file for workers’ compensation benefits.
In the same way, if a worker slipped on a wet mopped floor and sustained injuries, the employee would be fully covered. The fact that the employee knew that the floor had just been mopped and still ran over the wet floor does not prevent the employee from bringing a workers’ compensation claim and obtaining benefits.
What is Worker’s Compensation
The basic purpose of our workers’ compensation laws are to provide wage replacement benefits and medical treatment to employees who become ill or have been injured, as the result of a work-related injury or illness. Workers’ compensation provides the “exclusive” legal remedy for injured employees to obtain needed compensation benefits, including replacement wages and medical treatment, from their employers for workplace injuries. This means that, other than in some very rare exceptions, if you are an injured employee, you cannot just sue your employer for injury compensation the way you could file a lawsuit against another driver for a motor vehicle collision. Instead, you must file a workers’ compensation claim to receive your compensation benefits.
However, because workers’ compensation is your only exclusive remedy, the system provides a trade-off by requiring no-fault coverage. As a result, you can seek and receive immediate medical treatment and wage replacement benefits without having to appear in court or filing a lawsuit. The system provides immediate help for both the employee and the employer through no-fault coverage. It may seem unfair that you cannot bring a lawsuit against your negligent employer, but the trade-off more than evens the score between you and your employer. It’s a bargain between the employer and the employee.
There are three very limited situations where an injured employee may have the right to file a lawsuit against their employer rather than file a workers’ compensation claim. These situations are rare, and they are generally far from the normal workplace experience. The overwhelming majority of workplace injuries are resolved through the workers’ compensation system.
Just in case your situation warrants a lawsuit, you should be aware of these exceptions.
First, if you were injured because of your employer’s willful misconduct, then you would have the right to file a direct lawsuit against your employer. For example, if an employer intentionally removed a blade guard from a machine, and in doing so, knowingly exposed the employee to a cutting injury from the uncovered machine blade, this would be an example of willful misconduct.
Second, if the employer discriminates or retaliates against the employee, perhaps for filing for workers’ compensation benefits in the first place, the employee has the right to bring a direct lawsuit.
And third, if the employer does not provide workers’ compensation insurance coverage – which is against the law since employers are required to maintain workers’ compensation insurance – then the employee could bring a direct lawsuit against the employer.
These situations are clear exceptions to the normal course, and they speak to situations where the employer has broken their half of the bargain with its employee. By far, the usual experience is that workplace injuries are fully covered through workers’ compensation.
Protect Your Benefits With Legal Representation
If injured in a workplace accident, regardless of whether it was your fault or your employer’s fault, you need a workers’ compensation attorney to represent your legal interests. And if your situation is an exception to the rule, and you need to file a lawsuit directly against your employer, you should seek legal advice from a trained workers’ compensation attorney. Be sure to contact us. We are ready to help!