Every state, including Maryland, has established a system of Workers’ Compensation that provides benefits like medical bill coverage and wage replacement to employees with work-related injuries or occupational illnesses. Employers carry insurance or become self-insured to pay these claims to employees when appropriate.
Whether the employer or the employee was at fault for an injury is not relevant in Workers’ Compensation. The benefit is available regardless.
In exchange for employees being able to rely on this system to cover them when hurt at work, they are not allowed to sue their employers for damages for the same harm. In legal terms, Workers’ Compensation is the “exclusive remedy” for work-related injury and disease.
Maryland statute provides a couple of very narrow exceptions to Workers’ Compensation being the exclusive remedy:
- If the employer is required to get Workers’ Compensation insurance and does not, an employee injured while the employee was not insured (or self insured) may either file a Workers’ Compensation claim or file a lawsuit for damages. (In case of death, the employee’s personal representative has this right.)
- A personal injury or wrongful death suit may also be brought against an employer who caused the harm with “deliberate intent” to do so.
While Workers’ Compensation is normally the exclusive remedy as against the employer, but if a third party contributed to the injury or disease, the employee may file a third-party lawsuit against that party. An advantage of a lawsuit like this is that there may be types of damages available that are not under Workers’ Compensation like pain and suffering or property damage.
Examples of these kinds of parties and claims:
- The manufacturer, seller or designer of dangerous or defective work equipment when the equipment’s malfunction or dangerous nature injured the employee
- The owner of premises used for work activity who knowingly or negligently allowed dangerous conditions to exist on the premises that harmed the employee
- The negligent or reckless driver of another vehicle that causes an injury accident involving the worker when driving for work purposes
A Workers’ Compensation lawyer can help an injured worker assess all potential sources of recovery.