3 things to consider before you sue for a workplace injury

A serious accident on the job can put your lifestyle, career and emotional well-being at risk. Should you ever suffer a debilitating workplace injury, before considering the possibility of a lawsuit, here are three things to think about.

3 things to consider before you sue for a workplace injury

The Canada Revenue Agency says that if you're ever injured at work, workers’ compensation benefits must be paid to you as a form of wage-loss replacement. The sad truth? Mounting medical bills could still leave you broke.

Then what?

Unable to financially provide for yourself and your family as the debt grows, you may start wondering: should you push for further compensation? Suddenly the idea of suing your employer doesn’t seem like such a tough decision… but legally can you?

When can you sue?

Generally, employees injured on the job are only eligible for workers' compensation. As such, it makes the prospect of suing an employer almost impossible. Why?

  • According to the Association of Workers' Compensation Boards of Canada, most workers’ compensation legislation in Canada today is “no-fault," which means workers receive benefits regardless of how the injury occurred.
  • Under this arrangement, the worker and employer waive the right to sue and there is no argument over who is liable for an injury.

Fortunately, there are exceptions where you could be entitled to pursue additional compensation for your injuries. They apply when:

  • You were injured by a defective product or toxic substance to which you were exposed. You could weigh the possibility of a product liability lawsuit against the manufacturer.
  • Your injury occurred directly as a result of your employer’s intentional misconduct. In this event, you could try to bring a personal injury lawsuit against your employer.
  • If your employer doesn’t carry workers’ compensation insurance.

1. Sometimes additional compensation is necessary

Worker’s compensation can provide you with money and benefits, but only temporarily. Moreover, disability payments tend to be low and won’t likely compensate you for pain, suffering and costly out-of-pocket medical expenses that dire situations often incur.

  •  To make matters worse, workers' compensation doesn’t allow for punitive damages to a negligent employer. It is only meant to provide for basic necessities and may not shield you from the financial hardships associated with work-related injuries, especially if they are permanent or will require you to recuperate for a prolonged period.

To see if it's worth seeking extra compensation, you should find out more about your rights in your specific situation by speaking to a lawyer who specializes in personal injury law.

2. You may not always be able to sue

In general, you can't sue an employer for injuries that happen off the company premises, unless your employer sent you to an external location for work-related purposes.

  • Activities could include such things as errands, sales calls, service calls and other similar business-related duties.

In contrast, if the incident occurred when you were not on company time or on the company’s premises, your employer cannot reasonably be held accountable for something that happened.

However, there are grey zones because occasionally certain company functions, such as training meetings, holiday parties or other events, require your presence on-site but outside regular business hours. In those instances, what should you do if you’re injured?

  • Again, a lawyer versed in personal injury law can provide advice since a third-party group (e.g., a caterer at a holiday office party) may be involved in the events.

3. Not all work-related injuries are equal

Another area where the advice of a legal expert could help is by ensuring the type of injury received is assessed by a qualified healthcare professional, linking it to an aspect of your work, and then determining if your employer was legally negligent in some manner to cause the injury to occur.

According to Community Legal Education Ontario (CLEO), although most of us picture workplace injuries happening dramatically and suddenly, such as falling from a ladder, there are other cases where they develop slowly and subtly:

  • You may develop lung cancer years after having worked in the mines without proper lung protection.
  • Despite never having a mishap, you could develop back pain from years of improper lifting, repeated twisting and lack of training.
  • Your injury can be emotional if you saw a co-worker die in a machine accident and now you’re afraid to work anywhere near machinery.

If you believe your injury or disease is as a result of what you did at work, the challenge will be to establish cause and effect between the two things.

Being mentally prepared for a lawsuit

Ultimately, if you choose to sue your employer you must be prepared for what could be a long and arduous process. That entails:

  • Seeking experienced legal counsel in the domain of personal injury law
  • Gathering together all the evidence required to support your case
  • Mustering up all of your patience because the process can take several years
  • Not expecting the exact outcome you had wanted

In a perfect world, injuries on the job wouldn’t happen and workers’ compensation would be unnecessary. Fortunately, Canada has a system to help people and their families get back on their feet. For those times when it isn’t enough, litigation is always an option, but always best pursued with professional legal counsel.

The material on this website is provided for entertainment, informational and educational purposes only and should never act as a substitute to the advice of an applicable professional. Use of this website is subject to our terms of use and privacy policy.
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