Can I File a Civil Lawsuit Against My Employer for A Work Injury?

A gavel rests on a block sitting atop an incident report.

While pursuing a workers’ compensation claim, clients often ask if they can sue their employer for the employer’s role in their work related injury. The short answer is no, but there may be a third-party claim through which a lawsuit can be filed against another party that had a role in causing your injury. Workers’ compensation in Minnesota is a no-fault system, which means that it doesn’t matter which party caused a worker to sustain an injury in order for an injury to be compensable, or for an injured worker to be entitled to benefits. This is both good and bad for employees. Insurance companies aren’t able to blame you for your injury in order to evade paying for your lost wages or medical bills. But, employers and companies that have unsafe work spaces or somehow contribute to employees’ injuries aren’t penalized through the workers’ compensation system.

Moreover, worker’s compensation is an “exclusive remedy” under Minnesota law, which means that an injured employee cannot sue his or her employer for tort (civil) damages. Even though you may have sustained a grievous or very significant injury that was the fault of your employer, you cannot sue them outside of the workers’ compensation system.

Tort damages are different than the types of benefits you may be entitled to as a result of your injury under Minnesota workers’ compensation. For example, you cannot claim pain and suffering in work comp like you could if you were suing a person or an entity civilly in a personal injury action. Another difference between tort claims and workers’ compensation claims is that civil claims look at future damages or loses you will incur in the future as the result of your injury. While in work comp if a matter goes to a hearing, the judge rules on past benefits owed and then can also rule on entitlement to ongoing benefits, not future or prospective entitlements. In civil claims, it’s a one shot deal but in work comp, you could theoretically go to hearing multiple times on different issues. Additionally, civil suit claims must be brought within a certain time frame, or the statute of limitations may run out and you are forever barred from filing a claim. Workers’ compensation has a variety of different notice and statute of limitation rules.

But, if you have a third-party claim you can still pursue a work comp claim against your employer and the workers’ compensation insurance carrier and separately sue another party that contributed to your injury in a tort action in civil court. For example, if you were in a car accident while at work you can sue the defendant driver. Off-site accidents as well as construction accidents may include various third party claims.

This area of law is complicated and you should have an experienced attorney review your claim to determine if a third-party claim can be made on your behalf. Just in the past year Meuser Law Office, P.A. has recovered millions of dollars on behalf of clients who have filed third party claims. If you have a third party claim you need an attorney who is experienced in both personal injury as well as workers’ compensation. Many attorneys practice in either work comp or in personal injury and as a result could jeopardize your work comp claim in favor of the personal injury claim or vise versa. If you or your loved one has a potential workers’ compensation and/or a third-party personal injury claim contact us at Meuser Law Office, P.A. today for a free consultation by calling 877-746-5680.