One of the most common places people are injured is their workplace, especially if they work in a factory, an industrial facility, a construction site, or any other place that uses tools, equipment, vehicles, or heavy machinery. While it is conceivable that workplace injuries can occur in any employment setting, the dangers of workplace injuries obviously increase for certain occupations where workers are exposed to challenging physical conditions that create inherent risks of serious injury or even death.
According to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics[i], the occupations with the highest fatal work injury rates in America are:
– Logging workers;
– Fishers and related fishing workers;
– Aircraft pilots and flight engineers;
– Structural iron and steel workers;
– Garbage collectors, refuse and recyclable material collectors;
– Electrical power-line installers and repairers;
– Driver/sales workers and truck drivers;
– Farmers, ranchers, and other occupational managers;
– Construction laborers.
Virginia employees who suffer injuries while in these and other jobs will generally be entitled to monetary compensation and benefits under Virginia’s Workers Compensation Act, legislation that provides the exclusive remedy to employees for injuries or death “by accident arising out of and in the course of employment.”[ii] Put in a little clearer language, Virginia law presumes that injuries or deaths that occur during employment are covered by the Workers Compensation Act, which means that the Act will generally provide the only monetary remedy for employees who are injured on the job.
It is sometimes helpful to understand the Workers Compensation Act’s exclusivity provision by viewing it from its flip side: employees who are injured on the job will almost always be prohibited from bringing a lawsuit against their employer for the injuries they have suffered. Employees who try to sue their employers for tort-based injuries despite the Workers Compensation Act will likely face a defense by the employer that the employer is immune under the Act from lawsuits for workplace injuries.[iii]
Despite the clear language making the Act the exclusive remedy for employees who are injured on the job, the exclusive application of the Act does have some exceptions. In addition, there are circumstances under which an injured worker can file a lawsuit against a party other than the employer for injuries that are suffered during the employment.
As I will be explaining in some follow-up articles in this series of claims for employment-related injuries, the most common injury lawsuits suffered in the course of employment are for the following:
1. Injuries caused by defective products, known as product liability claims;
2. Third-party suits against parties other than the employer;
3. Claims against co-employees and even the employer for sexual assault;
4. Claims for assault and battery;
5. Repetitive injuries that occurred in the employment;
6. Tort claims not resulting in physical injuries, such as defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress;
7. Discrimination or sexual harassment claims against an employer;
8. Certain occupational diseases, such as mesothelioma from asbestos exposure;
9. Premises liability claims, such as slip and fall accidents on a third party’s property;
10. Claims for compensation, such as unpaid overtime.
Employees who have suffered injuries while in the course of their employment must consider whether they have a right to benefits under the Virginia Workers Compensation Act. In addition, injured employees or their loved ones should examine whether there may be grounds for recovering compensation from the employer, from a third party, or, for injuries caused by a defective product, from a manufacturer or vendor of the product. To explore your options following an employment-related injury, please contact Virginia Personal Injury Lawyer Robert E. Byrne, Jr. of MartinWren, P.C., toll free at 855-812-9220, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
[iii] To get a better understanding of what torts are, please see my article What is a Tort in Virginia? An Attorney’s Definition and Illustration.