In personal injury cases like slip and fall or motor vehicle accidents, the injured party can bring a lawsuit against the party responsible for the accident to seek compensation. In workers’ compensation cases, however, the injured employee is generally barred from suing their employer or coworker and must seek compensation through the workers’ compensation system exclusively. But is there ever a time when you can sue your coworker over a workplace accident that was their fault?
In the majority of cases, no, you are not able to sue a coworker over a workplace injury, even if the injury was clearly their fault, assuming the two of you work for the same company. Let’s say you were on the warehouse floor and your coworker drove a forklift recklessly into a shelving unit, causing heavy boxes to fall and break your leg. Even though it was your coworker’s actions that led directly to your broken leg, this accident would still be covered exclusively by workers’ compensation and you would not be able to sue your coworker.
That’s because workers’ compensation is a no-fault system. This means no matter whose fault the accident was – the worker themselves, a coworker, the employer, a third party, or simple bad luck – the worker is covered as long as the injury occurred during the course of work. It’s also an exclusive remedy system, meaning the covered employee must receive compensation through the workers’ comp system and is barred suing over the accident. Instead, they file a claim with the South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Commission. (Read about workplace third-party liability claims for circumstances when a lawsuit may be filed in addition to the workers’ compensation claim.)
There are a few circumstances where you may be able to file a lawsuit against a coworker who caused your workplace injury.
One is if you and your coworkers are not covered by workers’ compensation in the first place. Most employers in South Carolina are required to carry workers’ comp insurance, but not all. If you’re not covered by workers’ comp through your employer, you may be able to sue your coworker for your injury.
Another is if the injury was the result of a willful or intentional act on the part of your coworker if, for example, they attacked or assaulted you, or your injury was the result of a prank played on you or “horseplay” you were participating in. Depending on the circumstances, workers’ compensation may not cover these injuries in South Carolina, so you would be able to bring a lawsuit against your coworker.
You may also have a claim if your “coworker” is actually an employee or agent of another company. For example, many businesses and manufacturing companies have direct hire employees, workers through temp agencies, and other third parties often working in the same areas. It is possible you may have unique legal rights in these situations.
Call the Workers’ Comp Attorneys at The Carolina Law Group
This is only a brief overview of when you can and can’t bring a lawsuit against a coworker responsible for your workplace injury, but your situation may be unique. There are always gray areas and it’s a good idea to speak to an experienced workers’ compensation attorney to discuss your particular case. Call the workers’ comp attorneys at The Carolina Law Group to schedule your free initial consultation. They can help you understand your options and help get you the compensation you deserve.
The Carolina Law Group has four offices in upstate South Carolina for your convenience: Greenville (principal office; call 864.312.4444), West Greenville (864.312.4444), Greer (principal office; call 864.757.5555), and Spartanburg (principal office; call 864.757.5555). Call today.
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