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Whose Fault is an On-The-Job Injury?

October 5, 2023

By Thomas McCutcheon

When I see the same question asked over and over, I try and answer that question here.  

One common question is, “do I get more money because I can prove my injury was the fault of my employer?”  

The short answer is no. Now, Joel and I are two men with their minds on money, so we always look for ways to get more money for our clients.  

In those circumstances where we can find a non-employee or third-party at fault as in a traffic accident, or a defective product, such as a saw or forklift, we can get more money for an injury. The worker’s comp statute by its very purpose limits what an employee can recover. It has no effect on non-employee injuries or injuries caused by third parties.

However, worker’s comp for an on-the-job injury is defined by our Legislature and what an injured worker receives does not depend at all on whose fault it was.

Worker’s comp does not pay for loss of enjoyment of life. Think of playing with kids or sports or a good night’s sleep – things we enjoy. Worker’s comp pays no matter who’s at fault, but it does not pay for the enjoyment of life (hedonistic) damages.Reach out to a personal injury lawyer.

mccutcheon & hamner

If a driver runs a stop sign, they are responsible for medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and loss of enjoyment of life.

The law provides for those damages (and more) in fault-based cases. The law does not allow for those damages for injuries that occur on the job.

Issues To Consider in an On-The-Job Injury Settlement

Workers’ compensation pays for medical bills related to an on-the-job injury, temporary total disability benefits, vocational disability, future medical services and permanent partial or permanent total disability.

Those are a lot of issues to consider. Often there are other issues that an employer will want to consider such as a voluntary resignation and occasionally they want the settlement to be confidential. An important consideration is the inclusion of “social security language” which can and does protect social security benefits from being reduced if the injured worker obtains social security disability also.

It seems difficult and overly complicated, and it can be. One of the issues that lawyers occasionally encounter are judges who have different standards for approving a settlement. Some judges just will not close future medical benefits and other judges require future medical benefits be handled by a third-party administrator. All judges advise injured workers of their rights in a settlement. Some judges do it very simply by telling the injured worker that if they get better, they keep the money, but if they get worse, they don’t get any more money. They generally advise them about their rights to keep their future medical benefits open for life. I’ve never seen a judge do a really bad job, but I have seen different standards applied by different courts.

Sometimes it’s extremely advantageous to close future medical benefits simply because there is no future medical treatment related to the injury. If someone is on expensive medication or has hardware that can potentially cause problems, then leave medicals open. On the other hand, the next time that worker has a fall or a car accident, the workers compensation carrier will deny treatment and the injured worker won’t get medical treatment and may not be entitled to it.

There are other ways to get settlements approved, but the important point is that the injured workers understand their rights and make the decision that is best for them.

Buckle up, drive safely, and as always, your referrals are appreciated!


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