If you are injured at work, you are eligible to collect workers’ compensation benefits. If your injury was not caused by a specific accident or was not the fault of a specific person or company, this is about as far as you can go with your case. These situations are fairly straightforward. But what if a specific accident or situation did cause your injury? Maybe you sustained an injury because of something a coworker did (or didn’t do) while you were both on the job. You might want that coworker to be held responsible for what he or she did to you. However, under Indiana law, you cannot sue a coworker for causing your work-related injury unless you can prove that the coworker deliberately sought to cause you harm. You can’t sue your employer either – workers’ compensation laws also protect them from being sued by injured workers. However, depending on the situation, you may still be able to sue for damages.
For example, let’s say that you’re working a construction job and a coworker drops some forming material. It hits you and you sustain injuries to your arm and hand. You can’t sue your coworker for dropping the forming material, but you might be able to file a complaint against the construction manager if you think they bear some responsibility for your injury. If that company has indicated – either “by contract” or “by conduct” – that they assume responsibility for employee safety, then the company can be held liable for your injury. If the construction manager’s contract says that the construction manager is responsible for enforcing safety regulations, performing safety inspections, and addressing any safety violations, then they are responsible for ensuring employee safety “by contract.” Even if construction managers do not assume a duty of safety by contract, they can still assume this duty “by conduct.” If the construction manager takes on extra tasks to ensure safety beyond what is stated in the contract – like appointing a safety director, holding weekly safety meetings, and conducting daily safety inspections – then they have also assumed responsibility for employee safety.
Several recent Indiana cases involving scenarios like the one described above have not resulted in a “win” for the injured worker. Understand that suing a construction or general manager is not a guaranteed victory. The key to “winning” lies in a careful examination of contracts as well as the manager’s conduct at your workplace. If you believe that your workplace injury entitles you to damages beyond your workers’ compensation benefits, trust that we will give your case our full attention and effort.