As a member of the Pennsylvania workforce, you may not sue your employer if you suffer a workplace injury. Your only recourse to get financial assistance with medical bills and lost wages is the workers' compensation insurance program. This system protects employers from personal injury claims filed by injured employees. Instead, employers provide workers' compensation insurance coverage that provides benefits to cover medical expenses and lost wages, regardless of whose fault caused the injuries.
However, there are exceptions to this rule. Certain conditions at your workplace may give you grounds to file a civil lawsuit against your employer or a third party with no links to your employer.
Grounds for an employer's intentional tort
You may file a lawsuit for an intentional tort in civil court if you can show that your employer caused you harm with intent. The following grounds for such lawsuits show that torts can include both physical and emotional harm:
- Assault -- A threat or an attempt to commit battery against you
- Battery -- If something or someone intentionally hit you
- Unlawful imprisonment -- If your employer confined you illegally and against your will
- Emotional distress -- Intentional exposure to dreadful behavior
- Fraud -- When misrepresentation of facts or lies caused your injuries
- Defamation -- Slander and libel aimed at you to cause harm
- Privacy invasion -- Exposure of your personal information or photos to a broad audience
- Conversion -- When your employer or a colleague acquires your property for themselves
- Intrusion -- When someone at work trespasses by using your property without your consent
Grounds for a third-party lawsuit
You might have grounds to sue a third party if an employee of a different company caused your workplace injuries or if a defective machine or piece of equipment harmed you. Examples include a driver of a delivery vehicle knocking you down or if a design defect in a ladder causes you to fall.
You can file a third-party claim in addition to a workers' compensation benefits claim. However, you might have to refund any monetary awards you receive from the civil suit that duplicates benefits you received from the workers' compensation program to your employer or the insurance company.
Although you may be unsure about the viability of an employer's liability tort or a third-party claim, an experienced attorney who is familiar with the workers' compensation laws of Pennsylvania can answer your questions. Navigating both claims concurrently without the support and guidance of legal counsel could be quite a challenge.