Has Your Employer Intentionally Harmed You?
If you have suspicions that your employer has intentionally harmed you, you may feel you have a clear cut case against them. While most work-related injuries are venued in workers’ compensation court, a select few can seek the direction of a higher court. How difficult is it to pursue a claim for intentional harm?
Pursing a Claim outside Workers’ Compensation Court
In New Jersey, workers’ compensation coverage is the ultimate no-fault insurance. With few exceptions, if you are hurt at work, you can reasonably expect certain benefits. These may include authorized medical care, partial reimbursement for lost wages, and payment for some degree of permanent disability.
However, what happens if your employer intentionally harmed you? Can you pursue a claim outside of the purview of the limited remedies available in comp court? According to a recent scholarly presentation on the subject, workers compensation awards are “….limited because their purpose is not to restore plaintiffs to their former positions, but to keep them from becoming burdens on the community.”
For the most part, the courts consider workers’ comp as an exclusive remedy. The burden for proving that harm was intention falls on the injured worker. Intentional harm is considered an intentional tort. It differs from a negligence claim, which means injuries occurred because of some form of neglect. To prove a claim for intentional harm, the injured worker must prove that the employer deliberately hurt the worker.
This does not mean that successful pursuit of a civil case for work-related injuries is impossible. The first line of defense for the employer’s attorney is to bring a motion to court indicating that the case is barred under exclusive remedy laws. In Laidlow v. Hariton Mach. Co., 170 N.J. 602, 606, 790 A.2d 884, 886-87 (2002), the harm to the injured worker involved a partial hand and fingers amputation. The injury occurred on a machine that had installed safety guards. Unfortunately, the employer never put the safety guards into effect. Instead, they were “tied up.” Ironically, the injured worker actually had three separate conversations with his employer before his accident concerning his worries about the non-working safety guards. There were also allegations of deception against the Occupational and Safety OSHA & Health Administration.
The claim against the employer was initially barred in civil court under the exclusive remedy defense. However, the New Jersey Supreme Court disagreed. The employer should not have been let off the hook so easily. It found that “the combination of the employer’s disabling of the safety guard and deception of OSHA presents a triable issue on whether such conduct meets the definition of an “intentional wrong.”
Have you or a loved one been injured at work? It is important that you seek the advice of experienced legal counsel. At the Law Offices of Anthony Carbone, we have extensive experience pursuing these types of cases. Contact us for a no-cost appointment. We are not awarded fees until the case concludes.