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If I Have Been Injured on the Job, Do I Have a Right to File a Lawsuit Against My Employer?

Every day, Colorado workers are injured on the job. When a worker is injured, there are different avenues to recover their lost wages and other damages resulting from the accident. The two primary methods of recovery are (1) Colorado workers’ compensation and (2) filing a civil lawsuit. Colorado law is specific as to which avenue of recovery each injured worker can pursue. The selection of remedy has significant legal consequences. Each method of recovery has its own advantages and disadvantages, making consultation with an experienced lawyer important.

Workers’ Compensation

Nearly all Colorado businesses with employees are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance. Essentially, Colorado workers’ compensation is a legal system set up so that an injured worker can quickly receive medical treatment and some of their lost wages without having to file a lawsuit.

Colorado worker’s compensation is a “no-fault” system, meaning the injured can receive benefits even if they contributed to the accident. The Colorado workers’ compensation system was designed to quickly and certainly provide coverage to injured workers. However, to receive this benefit, the injured worker must give up their right to sue the employer and to receive recovery for certain injuries such as pain and suffering.

Civil Lawsuit

Generally speaking, workers’ compensation is the exclusive remedy available to an injured worker. The “no-fault” workers’ compensation system aims to provide quick coverage and medical treatment to the injured. However, one of the exchanges for the quick workers’ compensation recovery is that some types of damages are limited, making the traditional civil court beneficial to the injured. While workers’ compensation is generally the exclusive remedy for an injured worker, there are exceptions to the exclusive remedy rule. Some exceptions are:

  • If the injury was the result of the negligence of a third party, the injured may file both workers’ compensation and sue the third party in civil court.
  • If the injury was the result of faulty machinery, the injured may have an action against the manufacturer of the machine.
  • If the employer intentionally caused the injury, the injured may sue in civil court.
  • If the injury was caused by exceptionally egregious conduct by the employer, the injured may sue in civil court. Some examples of exceptional egregious conduct are failing to provide safety gear, the owner engaging in a physical altercation with the employer, or the employer being grossly negligent in the hiring of an employee who caused the injury.
  • If the injured was terminated for filing a workers’ compensation claim, the injured may sue in civil court.
  • If the employer failed to provide medical treatment by allowing the employee to visit medical providers, providing a list of approved providers, and notifying the workers’ compensation insurance provider.
  • If the employer fails to carry workers’ compensation insurance and is required by Colorado law to carry, the injured may sue in civil court.

Pursuing a civil lawsuit is complicated and involves deadlines, discovery processes, pretrial motions, and other steps that require significant legal knowledge. Without an experienced attorney, anyone representing themselves has an uphill battle. Simply filing the wrong document or following the wrong procedure can ruin a case. Further, many civil cases require experts to prove a facet of a lawsuit (such as damages), and seasoned attorneys know the best experts to hire.

Burnham Law represents those injured on the job. Some law firms specialize in either workers’ compensation or litigation (personal injury and/or employment). Burnham Law has attorneys experienced in both workers’ compensation and litigation. Burnham Law will evaluate your situation and develop a plan for maximum recovery.

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