Can I Sue for My Work Injury While I Am Receiving Workers’ Compensation?

Workers’ compensation is a system designed to protect victims of work-related injuries through their recovery. The benefits generally cover medical bills and part of their lost wages. In Missouri, most employers are required by law to carry workers’ comp insurance, but some of them (like companies with less than five employees or those who work with independent contractors) are not obligated to be covered.

Many injured workers ask us if they can sue their employer and file for workers’ compensation at the same time.

It’s important to understand that, filing a claim for workers’ compensation generally eliminates your right to file a civil lawsuit against your employer, so you will have to choose between the two.

Choosing Workers’ Compensation

It’s generally safer to go with a workers’ compensation claim rather than a lawsuit in some cases. The advantage of being covered by this system is that your case will be over relatively quickly, and you can start collecting benefits or receive compensation soon after the incident. In a civil lawsuit, you might have to wait for lengthy processing of your file, complicated legal proceedings, and higher risks of getting less than you asked for.

The disadvantage of workers’ compensation, compared to a lawsuit, is that you can only get your medical expenses and lost wages covered, but not other damages, such as pain and suffering. Depending on your case, you might prefer to file a lawsuit instead, if possible.

When to File a Lawsuit

If you want to go further in your claim for compensation, filing a civil lawsuit against your employer can be the better solution. Two of the most plausible reasons why this is a better idea are: your employer doesn’t carry workers’ comp insurance, is underinsured, or your employer has intentionally done something that put your health or your life in danger.

In a workers’ comp claim, you will generally be covered even if the accident leading to the injuries was your fault. However, fault plays a central role in personal injury claims.

When You Can Do Both

As with anything in life, there are a few exceptions.

You may be able to sue a third-party while on workers’ comp if, for example, the negligence of a co-worker, business partner, distributor, doctor, or inspector put you in danger and affected your health.

A Lawyer Can Help

In short, you generally cannot file a civil lawsuit if you already filed a workers’ compensation claim. In most cases, it would be an impractical course of action. But if your case has any particularities that would get you significant compensation for pain and suffering, or if a third-party has caused your work accident, this should be discussed with an experienced work injury attorney to see if a lawsuit would recover the compensation you need.

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