Are you stuck with the limited remedies under Workers’ Compensation?

Question: If you’re hurt on the job, are you stuck with the limited remedies under Workers’ Compensation?

ANSWER: You cannot sue your employer directly unless the employer intended to hurt you.

However, on-the-job injuries are often the fault of a person or company other than your employer. In that case, you can recover not only from Workers’ Compensation, but you have a claim against the person or company that caused your injuries.

Here are some examples of cases handled by our office:

  • A truck driver, delivering pumpkins to the Ellen DeGeneres show, was rear-ended by a semi-truck. Our client received substantial Workers’ Compensation benefits due to his injuries. We then sued the trucking company that owned the semi-truck and obtained a recovery above and beyond the limits of Workers’ Compensation.
  • A mail carrier suffered a serious foot injury while working where she was delivering mail because the owner had failed to repair the dangerous condition. Although she received federal Workers’ Compensation benefits, our firm successfully sued the owner of the building where she was delivering mail, because the owner had failed to repair the dangerous condition.

Other conditions of recovering beyond Workers’ Compensation are mentioned below.

Initiative Power Serves Injured Workers

Some of Oregon’s most important civil justice laws were enacted by initiative petition. The eight-hour work day, ventilation for workers, prohibition of convict labor, the Corrupt Practices Act, and the Employer’s Liability Act, all these resulted from citizen initiatives prior to World War I.

Without initiative petitioning, workers seriously injured would not be able to sue for job-related injuries. Hard-working Oregon citizens collected signatures to enact the following Employer’s Liability Act provision:

All employers having “responsibility for any work involving a risk or danger to the employees or the public shall use every device, care and precaution that is practicable to use for the protection and safety of life and limb, machine or other apparatus or device, and without regard to the additional cost of suitable material or safety appliance and devices.”

This law is powerful. It put people over profits. We recently represented a siding company foreman who suffered paraplegia from falling when a ladder and scaffolding collapsed. He obtained recovery against the general contractor, who allowed equipment to be unsafely used on the job site.

Other cases we’ve handled under this act include a paper plant workman who received serious chemical burns, a worker who fell from a platform, and workers injured by defective vehicles and machinery.

Citizens’ initiatives also established a three-fourths verdict for civil cases. Grass roots organizations and progressive politicians understood the social value of prevailing with 9 out of 12 votes, rather than needing a unanimous verdict.