Many jobs involve daily or near-daily hazards. Construction, manufacturing, agriculture, fishing, oil and gas, and countless other industries involve navigating challenging working conditions and many potential dangers.
When accidents happen on the job, the first line of financial support for injured employees is workers’ compensation. In California, as in other states, employees generally can’t sue their employers for work accidents. This is true even if their employer or coworkers were negligent.
There are limited exceptions to this rule, which is called the “exclusive remedy doctrine.” For example, if your employer violated state or federal safety regulations, you can hold them accountable.
What about suing other parties?
What many injured workers don’t know is that they may have a separate personal injury case against parties other than their employer. These claims, called third-party liability claims, can offer substantial compensation in addition to workers’ comp.
Third parties might include:
- Other contractors or subcontractors at a construction site
- The property owner or manager, if they’re not your employer
- The vehicle or equipment manufacturer in accidents involving dangerous or defective equipment
- The manufacturer of toxic substances that cause chemical injuries or occupational illnesses
Because many workers aren’t aware of this exception to the exclusive remedy doctrine, they miss out on valuable compensation if they don’t seek help from a personal injury lawyer.
Employees versus independent contractors
It’s important to note that while employees are entitled to workers’ compensation in California, independent contractors are not. Issues sometimes arise when employees are misclassified as independent contractors or vice-versa.
That’s why it’s so critical to talk to an attorney after a work accident. A knowledgeable lawyer can pinpoint issues such as employee misclassification, resolving them in a way that ultimately results in more money in your pocket.