Workers’ Compensation: The (mostly) exclusive remedy for Maryland work injury
In rare instances, an injured employee may have the right to file a lawsuit outside of the Workers’ Compensation system.
If you receive an injury on the job or develop an occupational disease in Maryland, Workers’ Compensation is designed to serve as your sole means of redress – the “exclusive remedy.” This means that – in theory – you do not have the right to file a lawsuit for work-related harm, either instead of or in addition to your Workers’ Compensation claim.
However, Maryland law includes specific exceptions to the exclusivity of Workers’ Compensation. While Workers’ Compensation is often a welcome remedy for workplace injuries, there are times when it might not actually be your (or your survivors if you were to die from your injuries or illness) only recourse. In narrow circumstances, you could have a legal basis to pursue Workers’ Compensation benefits as well as a personal injury claim.
The basis of a Workers’ Compensation claim
When you receive an injury or disease at work, you must pursue Workers’ Compensation benefits through your employer for medical expenses, replacement wages and other related support. These benefits are “no-fault,” meaning they are available regardless of who caused the harm – your employer, a co-worker, a third-party or you – or if it was purely an accident.
When is a personal injury suit available?
It is important to seek legal advice as early as possible about when a personal injury claim may be available because a lawsuit may be the only way to collect damages for certain kinds of harm, such as pain and suffering. An attorney can provide legal guidance in this complicated area of law so you understand how to preserve and pursue all related claims.
Maryland statute provides that your employer’s responsibility for work-related harm is exclusive “in place of any right of action against any person,” unless state Workers’ Compensation law gives the right to otherwise sue. Exceptions include:
- Either a Workers’ Compensation claim or a lawsuit for damages against your employer if it failed to secure required insurance to pay your claim, regardless of your own fault or that of another employee in causing the injury
- Either a Workers’ Compensation claim or a lawsuit against your employer if the employer intentionally caused your injury or death
- A lawsuit against a third party who caused or contributed to the injury or illness. Examples of such negligent, reckless or aggressive parties might include:
- A co-worker
- A customer, client or contractor
- A property owner or landlord who failed to keep the premises safe
- A manufacturer, distributor or seller or defective or dangerous equipment
- A service provider that performed faulty repair or maintenance of a product
- And others
Reimbursement and subrogation
Maryland has elaborate rules in case of recovery in a third-party lawsuit. Within specific procedures and requirements, the employee or the employer (if self-insured, otherwise usually its insurer) may have the right to bring a third-party suit. The employee or employer must share proportionately any recovery with the other according to specific rules. For example, if the employer already paid workers’ compensation for the claim and the employee recovers damages from a third party, the employee must reimburse the employer for their outlay and may keep the excess. Statute provides for other, similar reimbursement arrangements in different scenarios.
Getting the compensation to which you are entitled
Anyone who has sustained work injuries or occupational illness, or whose loved one suffered a work-related fatality, deserves compensation for the resulting damages. A dedicated, knowledgeable Workers’ Compensation lawyer can provide guidance and information about Maryland law to help you safeguard your rights and interests.