When most people think of a workplace injury, they tend to assume that means filing a workers’ compensation claim. Unfortunately, Montana’s workers’ comp system often fails to deliver adequate benefits. While workers’ injuries or conditions often leave them with lasting health problems and ongoing financial losses, they typically do not receive even half of what they need to cover treatments and make ends meet.
Because workers’ compensation is not likely to cover what you need, you should speak with your attorney about other options before accepting a workers’ comp settlement. You may discover you have other types of legal recourse.
When you file a workers’ compensation claim, you do not need to prove anyone acted negligently; merely that your injury related to your work. In return for relieving you of this burden of proof, the law protects employers by taking away workers’ opportunity to sue for personal injury.
However, if someone other than your employer did act negligently in causing your injury, you may have grounds for a third-party claim. Workers’ compensation laws only mean you cannot sue your own employer for workplace injuries, but you can sue others. Many industries use a system of contractors and subcontractors. Sometimes, your company may bring in a different company to perform some functions, including safety assurance. If someone working for another company negligently causes your injury, you may have a personal injury claim against that company.
Generally, the law defines negligence as a breach of a duty of care. This can mean violating safety regulations or it can simply mean failing to act reasonably to prevent a foreseeable accident. Common workplace injuries involve exposure to toxic materials, falls due to absence of barriers or warning signs, electric shock due to improperly grounded wires, and malfunctioning equipment. In many such cases, taking normal, common-sense steps to prevent accidents would have stopped workers from suffering injuries. In addition, many industries do have laws, regulations, guidelines and manuals that address typical hazards of those industries in order to ensure workplace safety.