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Boston Personal Injury Attorney > Blog > Personal Injury > Understanding Workers’ Compensation Immunity When You’re Injured at Work

Understanding Workers’ Compensation Immunity When You’re Injured at Work


Injured at work? You may think that you can just sue your employer, the same way that you could sue anybody else who injured you because of their negligence. But like many states, Massachusetts has adopted workers compensation immunity, and it can limit who you can sue, and when.

What is Workers’ Compensation?

Workers’ compensation insurance is provided to many kinds of workers. Not all employers are required to provide it, but if your employer is required, you should get access to medical care, at no cost to you, as well as, in some cases, lost wages. Workers compensation will cover you for any injuries on, or caused by, or as a consequence of, doing your job, and it does so regardless of fault—you don’t have to show anybody did anything wrong to get your benefits.

In that way, workers compensation is very beneficial; it gives you immediate access to medical care, no matter how an accident happened, and without having to prove anything to get those benefits.

The Trade-Off: Immunity

But there is a trade-off: in return for the ease and speed of getting benefits, you cannot also sue your employer in tort (that is, for negligence or strict liability). Your employer is immune in all but very limited circumstances.

This can be a problem, because you cannot recover the entirety of your damages under the workers compensation system.

For example, you cannot get pain, suffering, loss of life, emotional trauma, or other non-economic damages, under the workers compensation system. You are also limited in the wages you can recover. Family members cannot recover, the way that they could in a personal injury suit, for a loss of consortium claim.

And no, you cannot choose between them. In other words, you cannot refuse workers compensation benefits, and opt to sue for negligence instead.

When Immunity Does Not Apply

The immunity doesn’t apply if your job doesn’t provide to you, or isn’t legally required to provide to you, worker compensation benefits.

And even if you do get workers compensation, you can sue for negligence or tort damages, if your employer acted recklessly, or intentionally—very high burdens to prove, but it can be done in limited situations where employers are just so careless, that their actions go beyond simple negligence.

Workers compensation also doesn’t limit your ability to sue-it just limits your ability to sue your employer. So, for example, if you are a construction worker injured on the job because you were hit by a car, you couldn’t sue your employer for putting you in a dangerous position—but you could still sue the car driver that hit you, that driver having nothing to do with your employer.

There must also be a direct employment relationship for immunity to protect an employer. So, in some cases, contractors or leased employees, may still be able to sue in tort.

Call the Boston personal injury lawyers at The Law Office of Joseph Linnehan, Jr. today at 617-275-4200 for help and a free consultation if you were injured at work, to see if you may have the ability to bring a personal injury claim.




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