The Cassidy Law Firm Blog

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Beyond Workers’ Compensation: Intentional Harm Lawsuits Against Employers

Can I sue my employer outside of the workers’ compensation system?

Each year, approximately 5,000 employees are killed in workplace accidents, as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.  Millions more employees sustain injuries or illnesses that require time off work.  Seriously injured employees may find themselves with considerable medical bills and the inability to return to their prior job position.  For most injured employees, recourse against your employer will be limited to the remedies set out in the New Jersey Workers’ Compensation Statute, or N.J.S.A. 34:15-39.1. 

Workers’ compensation in New Jersey allows employees injured on the job to seek coverage for their medical bills, a portion of their lost wages, and ongoing payments if the injury is permanent in nature.  Workers’ compensation is a no-fault system that provides relief for many injured employees, but it can leave employees with serious injuries struggling from the burden of uncompensated damages.  For a select few employees, you may be able to sue your employer outside of the workers’ compensation court. 

Intentional Harm Lawsuits Against Your Employer

In limited situations, New Jersey courts have allowed employees to sue their employer for injuries that arose as a result of the employer intentionally causing the employee’s harm.  Instances include a case in which the employer failed to correct several OSHA violations for a condition that eventually harmed an employee. In other cases, employers have intentionally tampered with machinery, rendering it unsafe and leading to injuries. 

The recent New Jersey case of Madkiff v. Frazier-Simplex, Inc., A-1328-15T1 (App. Div. February 23, 2017), illustrates how difficult it can be for employees to seek compensation for intentional harms caused by their employer.  In that case, an employee was injured while attempting to demolish a glass furnace. The foreman instructed workers to remove the debris manually and employees complained that someone would get hurt. They were told to carry on, and the employee suffered an injury lifting a boulder.

The court dismissed the injured employee’s action against his employer, stating that he failed to show that the foreman intended to injure him.  Knowledge of the high potential for injury did not amount to virtual certainty.  Injured employees should be mindful of the difficulties in pursing compensation from their employers and consult with a skilled workers’ compensation attorney as soon as possible. 


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