In most cases, if you get hurt at work, worker's compensation should cover the cost of your medical bills and lost wages. Worker's comp also provides coverage for long-term disability if you can't work again and life insurance benefits for your family if you die. As an employee, you get access to worker's compensation, and in exchange, you more or less agree not to sue your employer in the event of an injury.
However, there are key cases where you may need to bring a lawsuit against your employer. If any of the following situations apply to you, you may want to contact an accident attorney.
1. Your Employer Intentionally Injured You
If you believe that your employer intentionally caused your injury, you have the right to sue him or her. In these cases, do not just take the worker's compensation that is offered to you — rather, contact a lawyer to talk about options immediately.
Intentional injuries could include situations where your employer caused you to get a physical injury. For instance, if your employer purposefully pushed a ladder you were standing on, set something in your path so you would fall, or even directly assaulted you, those are all examples of intentional physical injury.
However, you shouldn't just focus on physical injuries. If you're employer intentionally exposed you to emotional distress, defamed your name among staff or clients, or took possession of some of your property, that can all constitute intentional damage, and a lawsuit may be an effective form of recourse.
2. You Believe a Third-Party Is Actually at Fault
Note that worker's compensation arrangements are only designed to protect the relationship between employers and employees. These rules don't extend to the relationships between you and third parties.
In particular, if you got hurt using machinery at work and you believe that there was a manufacturer's flaw in the equipment, you may have a justifiable liability case on your hands. Similarly, if a client has been negligent about working conditions on their worksite, that may also be grounds for a lawsuit against that third party.
3. Your Believe Your Employment Status is Misclassified
In some cases, an employer may deny a worker's compensation claim based on the fact that you are a freelancer. This is legal — in fact, freelancers are not entitled to worker's compensation claims.
However, if you have been misclassified, you may be entitled to worker's compensation, and a lawyer can help you make that case. A lawyer can also help you decide if you should just accept your classification as a freelancer and bring a civil suit against the employer.
4. Your Worker's Compensation Claim Has Been Denied
If you don't meet any of the other criteria, there is one other situation in which you may want to contact an accident attorney, and that is when your worker's compensation claim has been resolutely denied. Typically, you shouldn't contact an attorney after the first rejection. Rather, you should appeal, and if your case goes in front of a worker's compensation court and it still gets rejected, that's when you should contact an accident attorney.
For instance, let's say you have developed a wrist injury for repetitive motions at work. However, your employer fought the claim, and the courts agreed that the injury wasn't completely caused at work. In situations like this, a worker's comp attorney can step in, assess the situation, and argue that you deserve a payout. Best of all, because they are taking the case to a civil court, you can attempt to get a larger payout than you normally would with a worker's compensation scheme.
If your situation is not on this list, you may still want to contact an accident attorney. They can let you know if you should continue on the usual worker's compensation path, or if you should stop and bring a lawsuit against your employer.