What are My Legal Options if a Co-worker Caused My Workplace Injury?
In most cases, you will file a workers’ compensation claim for any injuries caused by another employee. Workers’ comp claims are no-fault to provide the broadest protection for employees and do not take into consideration who caused the accident. Eligibility for workers’ compensation is typically only based on whether the accident happened during the ordinary course of your work duties.
However, there may be some gray areas where the legal situation can become more challenging, and workers’ compensation may not always apply. An experienced North Carolina personal injury lawyer can help you fully understand your legal rights if a co-worker has injured you.
Could You File a Lawsuit Against Your Co-worker for Your Injuries?
Every case is unique, but in most circumstances, filing for workers’ compensation is your only option for recovery after a co-worker has injured you. Workers’ comp is an exclusive remedy, which means you are barred from suing your employer or co-worker if the incident is eligible for a worker’s comp claim.
However, if workers’ compensation is not applicable or your co-worker acted with intent to harm you, you should seek the advice of a trusted attorney, as you may have grounds to bring a personal injury lawsuit.
When is an Injury Caused by Your Co-worker Not Covered by Workers’ Compensation?
Workers’ compensation protects employees who are hurt during their daily work, which includes most injuries caused by co-workers. However, there are some circumstances where an accident can happen at a workplace and not be eligible for a workers’ compensation claim, such as if the injury occurred:
- While you were engaging in horseplay: Sometimes people do things at work that could be classified as “goofing off” or engaging in horseplay instead of working. If you willingly participated in these behaviors and got hurt, your employer may deny your workers’ comp claim. If you were just a bystander who got hurt by a co-worker who was goofing off, you would still have a viable claim.
- During a lunch break or off-the-clock: Any accident occurring before or after your shift will not be eligible for workers’ comp. This also applies if you clocked out for lunch or were injured during a break. For example, if you went out to the parking lot during lunch and got your hand crushed in your car door by a co-worker, you likely would not be able to bring a workers’ comp claim.
- As a result of an altercation or intentional act: If you and your co-worker got into a scuffle over a disagreement unrelated to work, or your co-worker intentionally caused you harm, it will probably not count as a workers’ comp claim because it was not work-related.
- Due to a co-worker who is a third-party contractor: In some industries, you may be working next to people who are not employees of the same company, such as truck drivers or temporary workers. Different laws may apply in these cases, and seeking legal guidance is recommended.
- At a small employer: If your workplace has very few employees, your employer may not be required to purchase workers’ comp insurance.
If any of these situations apply to your case, you should contact a knowledgeable personal injury lawyer as soon as possible to discuss your options for recovering damages for your injuries.
What Should You Do if You Sustain an Injury at Work?
Accidents happen fast, and you may feel overwhelmed after your injury. Knowing what steps to take to protect your well-being and your claim can be crucial to getting the best possible outcome after the incident.
These steps include:
- Report the accident to your employer: Promptly tell your employer about the accident. This ensures the incident is properly documented and you receive immediate medical attention if necessary. Your employer can also use the information to take steps to keep other employees safe if your co-worker poses a danger or requires safety training.
- Seek a prompt medical evaluation: Documentation and proof of your injuries are crucial to your workers’ comp claim. Inform your doctor that your visit is due to a work-related injury so it can be recorded. Have your medical provider take photos of your injuries if possible. Be honest about how you are feeling and any pain you are experiencing.
- Follow all care recommendations: Keep your follow-up and physical therapy appointments and take any medications as directed. These actions show that you have made a good-faith effort to heal from your injuries.
- File a written work injury accident report: After a work injury, you must file a written claim form, known as Form 18, that you can get from your employer or the North Carolina worker’s compensation board. This form must be filed within 30 days of the incident to qualify for workers’ compensation benefits.
- Contact a workers’ compensation attorney: Work-related injuries can be legally complex, especially if caused by another employee. A knowledgeable North Carolina workers’ compensation attorney can help you through the process and ensure you receive the benefits you deserve.
How Can an Experienced Personal Injury Lawyer Assist You?
It can be challenging for an injured worker to navigate North Carolina’s workers’ compensation laws independently. A personal injury lawyer with experience in workers’ compensation claims can be the strong advocate you need to uphold your legal rights. If you’ve been injured by a co-worker, there may be special circumstances that apply to your case, and our law firm can help you understand your options and assist in recovering the compensation you are entitled to.