In 2021, New York workers experienced 125,500 nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses while on the job. Of these cases, 81,600 injuries were serious, resulting in days away from work, job transfers, or restrictions for the injured employee.
Workplace injuries can happen for many reasons, such as slipping on a wet floor, having skin contact with a toxic substance, or malfunctioning machinery. Sometimes, a co-worker’s willful or accidental actions can lead to a job-related accident that leaves you with severe injuries.
If your co-worker caused your injury, you may wonder if you should file for workers’ compensation or take legal action against them in a personal injury claim. The answer depends on your eligibility for workers’ comp and the specific circumstances of the incident.
The workers’ compensation system in New York is a state-mandated insurance program that provides medical benefits, wage replacement, and other forms of assistance, such as disability, to employees who sustain work-related injuries or occupational illnesses.
Any employer with one or more employees must carry workers’ compensation. There are a few exceptions, such as sole proprietors without employees, certain agricultural laborers, and others, but these exceptions are limited.
Workers’ compensation operates on a no-fault basis. Injured workers are entitled to benefits regardless of who was at fault for the accident. In most situations, you file a workers’ comp claim no matter who caused the accident—including a co-worker.
The following scenarios illustrate potential co-worker-caused accidents for which you would file a workers’ compensation claim:
- Accidental collisions: A co-worker accidentally bumps into you, causing you to fall and sustain an injury, such as a sprained wrist or twisted ankle.
- Equipment accidents: A co-worker’s improper use or mishandling of machinery or tools results in an injury, like getting caught in equipment or being struck by a falling object.
- Negligent actions: When a co-worker’s carelessness, like leaving a hazardous substance unattended, leads to a slip or fall that results in an injury.
- Failure to communicate hazards: A co-worker failing to warn you about a potential danger, such as not notifying you about a wet floor, leading to a slip and injury.
- Lifting or carrying incidents: In the case of a co-worker improperly assisting with lifting heavy objects, leading to strains, sprains, or muscle injuries.
While workers’ compensation often covers workplace injuries, there are instances where you might have grounds to sue a co-worker who caused your injuries. This could involve situations where their actions were intentional, reckless, or outside the scope of their job responsibilities.
Here are several scenarios that might warrant considering legal action against a co-worker:
- Intentional harm: You may have a personal injury claim against a co-worker who intentionally causes harm, such as physical assault or battery leading to injuries.
- Gross negligence: Gross negligence implies a reckless and willful indifference to potential harm, like a co-worker knowingly disabling safety measures on equipment or ignoring established safety protocols.
- Outside work duties: You can file a personal injury claim against your co-worker if their actions occur outside the scope of their job responsibilities, such as reckless driving while on a work-related errand.
- Intoxication: If your co-worker is impaired by drugs or alcohol and causes an accident, you may be able to sue them for damages related to your injuries.
Suing a co-worker for your work-related injury can potentially result in higher compensation than you might receive in a workers’ compensation claim. A lawsuit can include damages, such as medical treatment or rehabilitation therapy, pain and suffering, or punitive awards not covered by workers’ comp.
Hiring an attorney for your worksite injury is crucial to understanding your rights and legal options. Our worksite accident attorneys at Catalano Law offer expertise in navigating complex workplace injury claims, helping you receive fair compensation for damages caused by a willfully negligent co-worker.
We will review the circumstances of your case to determine whether a workers’ compensation claim or personal injury lawsuit is the best option and protect your rights every step of the way. Contact us for a free consultation today to get started on your case.