When employees are injured at work, they are usually entitled to receive workers’ compensation. Workers’ compensation is insurance that employers carry to provide injured employees with money to cover medical expenses related to their injuries, to cover occupational rehabilitation, and to provide temporary wage replacement. When employees are injured at work, however, they have the option of filing either a workers’ compensation claim or a personal injury claim against the at-fault employer. Depending on the state in which you work and whether or not you were injured because the employer committed an OSHA violation, there are certain benefits and disadvantages to filing a workers’ compensation claim in lieu of a personal injury claim against your employer and vice versa. Below, we discuss the interplay between workers’ compensation claims and OSHA violations and what steps to take to determine if filing a workers’ compensation claim instead of a personal injury claim is in your best interest.
Basics of Workers’ Compensation
As stated above, workers’ compensation is insurance that employers carry in case an employee is injured during the course and scope of his or her employment and, as a result, requires money to cover the costs of medical expenses related to the injury, the costs of physical and occupational rehabilitation therapy, and to supply the injured employee with wage replacement while they are recovering from the injury. In both Pennsylvania and New Jersey, there are workers’ compensation statutes that outline what employers must carry workers’ compensation insurance and when a workers’ compensation claim may be filed.
In both states, workers’ compensation is a no-fault system. This means that, if an employee submits a workers’ compensation claim and receives a payout from submitting the claim, both the employee and the employer lose the right to later claim that the other was responsible for the accident that caused the workplace injury. Essentially, once the employee receives the payout, then the employee is generally barred from pursuing a personal injury claim against the employer for having sustained the injury and vice versa.
What is OSHA?
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) is a federal agency that is charged with the responsibility of enforcing the Occupational Health and Safety Act. The way that OSHA enforces this Act is to implement regulations and guidelines that employers must follow to ensure that employees are working in a safe environment. Some of these regulations include establishing minimum sanitation requirements and work schedule requirements for the workplace while other regulations require the employer to document and disclose workplace injuries that occur to OSHA.
When employers fail to comply with these regulations, then they may be subject to sanctions imposed by OSHA. Sometimes, these sanctions can be having to pay hefty fines for OSHA regulation violations.
How OSHA Regulation Violations Affect Workers’ Compensation Claims
When an employee’s workplace injury is caused because the employer violated an OSHA regulation, the OSHA violation generally has no effect on the injured employee’s ability to file a workers’ compensation claim. However, because the workers’ compensation system is a no-fault system, some states have interpreted their specific workers’ compensation statute to preclude the filing of a separate cause of action against the employer for the willful violation of an OSHA regulation if the employee has already filed and received a payout for a workers’ compensation claim. These states point to Section 4(b)(4) of the Occupational Health and Safety Act to support this position.
However, in New Jersey, this is not the case. In 2003, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled in Mull v. Zeta Consumer Products, 176 N.J. 385, 823 A.2d 782 (2003), that the workers’ compensation immunity provision in New Jersey’s workers’ compensation statute did not bar the employee or a third party from filing a separate claim against the employer for wilfully violating OSHA regulations. Consequently, in New Jersey, you may be permitted to file a separate lawsuit against your employer for wilfully violating OSHA regulations even if you receive workers’ compensation from your employer. However, in other states, the way to hold your employer accountable for violating OSHA regulations is to pursue a personal injury claim against your employer instead of filing a workers’ compensation claim.
How to Determine Whether to File a Personal Injury Claim or a Workers’ Compensation Claim Against your Employer if your Employer Violated OSHA Regulations
If you were injured at work and need to determine whether it is in your best interest to pursue a personal injury claim against your employer or to file a workers’ compensation claim, it is prudent to consult with an experienced employment and workers’ compensation attorney. An experienced attorney can assess the facts of your case and can provide you with the answers you may need to determine which type of claim is best to file in light of your unique circumstances. Additionally, if your employer committed an OSHA regulation violation and this violation caused the injury, an experienced attorney will know how to use this information to get the monetary compensation you deserve because of the injuries you sustained.
Contact a Cherry Hill Workers’ Compensation Lawyer to Discuss Your New Jersey or Pennsylvania Workplace Injury Case
A workplace injury can be devastating, particularly if it prevents you from returning to work for an extended period of time. Although New Jersey workers’ compensation laws are supposed to provide you with reimbursement for medical expenses and replacement pay for missed time at work, it is not always easy to get the workers’ comp benefits you deserve. That is why you should speak with a knowledgeable workers’ compensation lawyer about your situation and get guidance throughout the claims process. The experienced workers’ compensation attorneys at Begelman & Orlow, P.C. represent clients in Cherry Hill, NJ, Marlton, Philadelphia, PA, Conshohocken, PA, and throughout New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Call (866) 627-7052 or fill out our online contact form today to schedule a consultation about your work injury case. Our main office is located at 411 Route 70 East, Cherry Hill, NJ 08034, and we also have an office in Conshohocken, PA.
The articles on this blog are for informative purposes only and are no substitute for legal advice or an attorney-client relationship. If you are seeking legal advice, please contact our law firm directly.