Employees injured on the job generally may not sue their employers for damages. Instead, they may file a claim for workers’ compensation against their employer, regardless of which party was at fault. Workers’ compensation benefits generally comprise the only compensation that employees are entitled to recover from their employers for workplace injuries.
There are some very rare exceptions to this general rule. In the District of Columbia, an employee may sue his or her employer for workplace injuries if the employer intentionally injured the employee on the job. Moreover, in the District of Columbia, an employee may sue his or her employer if that employer lacks workers’ compensation insurance, and the employer’s negligence causes the employee’s workplace injuries. In Virginia, an employee with workplace injuries may sue his or her employer for damages if the employee is unable to collect a workers’ compensation award because that employer has neither workers’ compensation insurance, nor the financial ability to pay. In Maryland, if an employer fails to secure workers’ compensation, then an employee injured on the job may sue the employer for damages.
States have different rules governing whether employees may sue their employers for workplace injuries caused by a co-employee. In Maryland, employees with workplace injuries caused by a negligent co-employee may sue that co-employee for damages, and also file a workers’ compensation claim against the employer. In contrast, in Virginia and the District of Columbia, an employee injured on the job by a co-employee can only recover workers’ compensation; that injured employee may not bring a lawsuit against the co-employee and employer.
Workers’ compensation aims to balance the interests of employees and employers. It enables employees injured on the job to recover compensation for their injuries quickly, rather than having to pursue a drawn-out lawsuit. It also protects employers from lawsuits brought by employees with workplace injuries.
All states and the District of Columbia, as well as the federal government have workers’ compensation statutes.