If you suffer an on-the-job injury or work-related illness in New Jersey, you may be wondering whether you can sue your employer for your injury or illness. In many cases, your recovery rights may be limited based on New Jersey workers’ compensation laws. In New Jersey, an employee normally cannot sue the employer for a work-related injury and must instead make use of the workers’ compensation system.
In most situations, as long as an employee shows that an injury occurred on the job, reports the injury, and requires medical treatment, he or she will be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits, even if the injury was caused by the employee’s own negligence. Although workers’ compensation laws allow you to recover for medical expenses and lost wages, this may not always be enough to make you feel “whole” again following a work-related injury. You may also want to sue your employer, particularly if your injury was directly your employer’s fault.
In New Jersey, there are certain limited situations in which you may be able to sue your employer for an on-the-job injury. For instance, if you can prove that your employer acted or directed you to act with the deliberate intent to harm or injure you, you may be allowed to sue your employer. In the case of Millison v. E.I. duPont de Nemours & Co., 101 N.J. 161 (1985), the New Jersey Supreme Court held that an employee who demonstrates that his or her employer acted in a way that was certain to cause harm and that the context of the injury is beyond what the workers’ compensation system was intended to cover, then he or she can sue the employer for additional damages including medical expenses, pain and suffering, and even punitive damages.
Although the situations in which the court is likely to find that an employer did, in fact, cause intentional harm are limited, it is possible to sue your employer if your employer intentionally hurt you. Situations in which this remedy may be available include, for instance, when an employer willfully violates an OSHA regulation that leads to an employee’s injury or when an employer directs or coerces the employee to use a piece of work equipment while the equipment is clearly in a dangerous state of disrepair.
Regardless of whether or not the right to sue is available, it is important that you understand how you may recover for an on-the-job injury. Because employment and personal injury laws can be complex, expert legal advice from an experienced attorney is a valuable tool. A lawyer who understands the law can explain your rights to you and help you identify what remedies may be available and what you may be able to recover following a work-related injury. Even if you do not have the right to sue, you may be able to recover for medical expenses and lost wages under the New Jersey workers’ compensation laws, and an attorney can help guide you through this process and increase your likelihood of success.