Employers in Washington State owe a duty of care toward their employees to provide safe working conditions and the right safety equipment to prevent injury. If you have been hurt on the job, you may wonder, “Can I sue my employer for unsafe working conditions?”. The answer is it depends on your situation.
Workers’ compensation insurance is intended to prevent injured employees from suing employers for negligence. It provides medical treatment for work-related illness and injury and usually precludes a lawsuit. Under some circumstances, though, an employer may be liable for negligence; workers’ compensation injury attorneys can explain further.
Proving employer negligence as the cause of your injury or disease can be tricky. Accidents happen, especially in high-risk jobs like fishing, logging, and forestry. To hold the employer liable for your injuries, your workers' compensation attorney must prove that they acted with disregard to employee safety:
Negligent hiring involves a lack of due diligence on the employer's part. The employer fails to conduct proper background checks, for example and hires someone who could be a threat to other employees. Or maybe they hire someone not qualified to work with heavy machinery or perform certain jobs. Unqualified workers place everyone in danger.
Similar to negligent hiring, negligent retention means keeping an employee who has already demonstrated that they are unqualified or creates a safety threat. If an employer discovers that an employee isn’t properly licensed or poses a danger to others, they should either move them to a safer position or terminate their employment.
Failure to properly monitor employee actions and stop unsafe behavior is considered negligent supervision. Site foremen, supervisors, or managers are responsible for ensuring that each employee follows proper OSHA and other safety protocols. Unsupervised employees or oversight of risky behavior or horseplay become the employer’s negligence.
If an employer doesn’t properly train new hires to safely operate equipment or use tools necessary to complete their assigned tasks, they are guilty of negligent training. Poorly trained employees place everyone in danger. Employer negligence in training also includes failing to train employees on what to do in an emergency, which can also lead to increased chances that someone will be harmed.
There is more to suing company for negligence than proving that an accident happened in the workplace. Your worker’s compensation injury lawyer must prove that the employer was negligent in one of these common manners and its negligence was the direct cause of the accident that caused your workplace injuries.
Washington workers' compensation law covers many situations where an employer’s workers' compensation policy should cover workplace injuries. Usually, these are true accidents or medical conditions that can be directly attributed to your job duties, like respiratory problems from toxic exposure or repetitive motion injuries like carpal tunnel syndrome.
Filing a workers' compensation claim for your injury doesn’t necessarily mean the employer is directly liable for your injuries. And an employer approving your workers’ compensation claim isn’t the same as admitting liability for the injury.
Workers' compensation benefits cover treatment associated with your workplace injury, like:
The workers' compensation system doesn’t cover injuries that occurred because of employee irresponsibility, though, including those that happened because:
If you were injured at work due to employer negligence, though, you could file a personal injury claim that includes compensation for non-economic losses, like the pain and suffering from your injuries, or consideration for permanent disfigurement.
You don’t need to prove the employer was negligent to receive worker’s comp benefits — just that you were injured while doing your job. If you believe the employer failed in their duty to maintain a safe working environment, though, you can sue employer for negligence.
Aside from a few specific situations, Washington workers' compensation laws preclude a workplace negligence lawsuit. So what can you sue your employer for? Situations include:
A negligent act isn’t the same as an intentional act. An intentional act is hard to prove.
Your lawyer must demonstrate that the employer knew you would be hurt by performing the action that led to your injury but asked you to do it anyway.
Injuries at work don’t necessarily have to be physical. A toxic working environment can sometimes cause emotional distress or aggravate an existing mental illness. You may not be able to seek compensation under Washington worker’s comp for emotional distress, but an employer negligence lawsuit could help you receive compensation to get the treatment you need.
PTSD, insomnia, anxiety, and depression are common mental illnesses that can develop from working in a toxic workplace.
Proving negligence that caused emotional distress can be even more complicated than proving negligence for physical injuries. You may need to see a mental health professional to diagnose your condition and log your symptoms or occasions when they’re triggered.
To prove employer negligence, you may need a history of unresolved complaints about the work environment or documentation of poor treatment by co-workers.
If you believe your employer was truly negligent, your workers' compensation attorney can file a lawsuit for negligence against the company, naming them (and specific persons) as defendants.
Successful employer negligence lawsuit settlements require proving negligence, just as your lawyer would in any other personal injury claim:
You and your lawyer need to build a solid case that the employer did know or reasonably should have known that unsafe conditions existed in the workplace and failed to address them. You can help your lawyer by:
Your lawyer can use all these as grounds to subpoena the employer’s personnel records, safety inspections, and testimony from other workers.
A workplace negligence lawsuit might be your only option if you were injured by a third party not covered under workers' compensation insurance. A third-party claim is one in which the at-fault party isn’t your employer or co-worker but one that is related to your job. For example:
Proving negligence in a third-party claim follows the same process as the four-step burden of proof. If you file a workers' compensation claim after being injured due to negligence by a third party, you may not receive benefits from your employer’s policy. Instead, you may have to file a suit against the third party to receive compensation for your medical treatment and other losses, like missed wages at work.
Have you been harmed because of employer negligence? If your injuries were caused by something other than a true accident at work, a Washington State employer negligence lawyer could help you secure the compensation you deserve. At Lehmbecker Law, we fight to hold negligent and irresponsible companies responsible for their behavior, standing up for the rights of injured workers just like you. Contact us today for a free consultation with our experienced legal team.
Our legal team will pursue maximum compensation for you. Contact us today.