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Does fault matter for those in need of workers’ compensation?

On Behalf of | Jun 1, 2021 | Workers' Compensation

Perhaps a co-worker had a cramp, leading to their steering a forklift directly into you and pinning you against a shelving unit. Perhaps you were feeling slightly under the weather but went into work anyway, only to lose your grip on some copier paper and drop a 50-pound box on your foot.


When incidents occur at work, they aren’t always completely unpreventable accidents. Often, mistakes are what lead to a worker getting hurt. An employee could accidentally cause their own injuries or cause an injury to someone else on the job. Other times, it might be environmental issues or company policy that directly contributes to a worker getting hurt.


Does fault for the incident itself affect your right to workers’ compensation benefits?


Massachusetts has a no-fault approach to workers’ compensation

Personal fault does not have a bearing on the right of a worker to seek workers’ compensation benefits. Unless they were under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of a workplace accident, a worker’s own contributions to the incident won’t affect their right to medical coverage and disability benefits.


The same is true of an incident caused by a co-worker, a customer or even a total stranger. The fault of other individuals does not limit the right of a worker to file a workers’ compensation claim, although it does sometimes open the door to a secondary personal injury claim.


When is a civil lawsuit an option?

There are generally two scenarios in which a worker could file a civil personal injury lawsuit after they get hurt on the job. The first would be a scenario in which their employer was grossly negligent in their training, facility maintenance or other responsibilities. If the employer’s negligence or law-breaking directly caused an employee’s injury, that can sometimes give rise to a civil lawsuit.


Other times, workers can file a third-party claim. If there is a piece of defective equipment, if a supplier provided a piece of malfunctioning machinery or if someone unrelated to the job causes a car crash or commits an act of violence that affects an employee, the worker may have a third-party liability claim against the person involved in the incident.


For most workers, workers’ compensation benefits will be sufficient after an injury, but knowing all of the options is usually the best approach.