Workers' compensation laws are complex. They vary from state to state and by occupation type. Some occupations have special workers' compensation laws while other occupation types, such as agricultural production, may have no protection at all against employer negligence. Typically it requires a special circumstance for an employee to be able to successfully sue his or her own employer for bodily injury damages.
In a recent case in the state of Oregon, the Oregon appellate court found that employee Patrick Merten could sue his employer for allegations of fraud. The case stemmed from an April 2003 accident, in which Mr. Merten fell from a power pole on the job. Mr. Merten sued his employer for fraud, claiming they misrepresented the process for submission of his medical records and that the employer never intended to open his injury claim.
An Oregon trial court initially dismissed Mr. Merten's fraud claim on the basis that workers' compensation laws barred the claim. However, on appeal, the Oregon appellate court ruled in his favor. They ruled that his fraud allegations did not arise from his employment and therefore could not be compensable under workers' compensation laws. The appellate court remanded the case to a trial court for further discussion.
While this case may not be typical, it is illustrative of instances where employees are able to sue their employers for matters arising out of an on the job injury claim. Claims for negligence by employees against their employers can be difficult to pursue due to industrial insurance laws.
However, there are exceptions. For example, when a construction worker is injured on a job site where other contractors besides his employer have liability for the accident, the injured employee may be able to bring a negligence claim against the other employers, in addition to an industrial injury claim. Be sure to check with a workers' compensation attorney regarding your claim. Most offer a free consultation.