At The Law Offices of Mark T. Hurt, we’ve encountered many clients who are uncertain about their legal options after sustaining a work-related injury. One of the most common questions we hear is, “Can I sue my employer if I am hurt at work?”

In Virginia, the primary avenue for compensation after a workplace injury is through the workers’ compensation system, which has specific guidelines about when you can and cannot take legal action against your employer. In this article, we will clarify these guidelines and outline what you need to know if you find yourself in this situation. If you were injured at work and need assistance seeking compensation, we invite you to call our offices to schedule a free consultation with an experienced Virginia workers’ compensation attorney.

What Is Virginia Workers’ Compensation?

Workers’ compensation is a form of employer-funded insurance that offers benefits to employees who suffer from injuries or illnesses due to their job. This system provides medical treatment coverage, wage replacement, and compensation for any permanent impairment resulting from a work-related injury. As a no-fault system, it allows employees to receive benefits without needing to prove their employer was at fault for their injury.

However, the no-fault nature of workers’ compensation also means that, in most cases, employees cannot sue their employer for injuries sustained on the job. This trade-off is designed to protect both employees and employers—employees get quicker access to benefits without the hassle of a lawsuit, and employers are shielded from potentially costly legal actions.

Who Is Required To Carry Workers’ Compensation Insurance In Virginia?

In Virginia, employers with three or more employees are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance. This mandate applies to both full-time and part-time workers, ensuring that employees have access to benefits if they suffer a work-related injury or illness. The requirement is designed to provide a safety net for workers, offering medical treatment, wage replacement, and compensation for permanent injuries without the need for lengthy litigation.

The definition of an employee is broad, including seasonal workers, minors, trainees, immigrants, and working family members. Essentially, if a business hires three or more individuals to perform services for remuneration, it must secure workers’ compensation insurance to cover them.

Some exceptions to this rule include certain types of workers, such as railroad employees, domestic servants, and some real estate agents, who are classified differently under the law. Additionally, independent contractors are not considered employees.

Employers have the option to purchase insurance through a commercial provider or, if they meet certain criteria, self-insure. Failing to comply with these requirements can lead to severe penalties for employers, including fines and being barred from conducting business in the state until compliance is achieved. Moreover, if an uninsured employer’s employee suffers a work-related injury, the employer could be exposed to civil lawsuits, where the usual protections offered by the workers’ compensation system—such as immunity from most employee lawsuits—are not available.

When Can You Sue Your Employer for A Work-Related Injury or Illness?

Despite the general rule that workers’ compensation is the exclusive remedy for workplace injuries, there are exceptions to this rule. The following are situations where an injured worker might be able to take legal action against an employer:

  • Intentional Acts. If your employer intentionally causes you harm, the workers’ compensation exclusivity provision might not apply. This scenario is rare and requires clear evidence that an employer deliberately intended to injure an employee.
  • Employer’s Failure to Carry Workers’ Compensation Insurance. Virginia law mandates that employers with three or more employees must provide workers’ compensation insurance. If your employer fails to comply with this requirement, you might have the right to sue them directly for injuries sustained at work. 
  • Sexual Assault Claims. Victims of sexual assault may pursue a civil action against the perpetrator, regardless of whether they are an employer or co-worker. 
  • Third-Party Claims. While not a lawsuit against your employer, if a third party’s negligence contributed to your workplace injury, you might have the basis for a personal injury lawsuit against that third party. For example, if you were injured by defective equipment, you might sue the manufacturer of the equipment. 

How Can The Law Offices of Mark T. Hurt Assist With My Virginia Work Injury Claim?

Understanding your legal rights and options following a workplace injury can be complex. Here’s how our team at The Law Offices of Mark T. Hurt can assist you:

  • Evaluating Your Case. As workers’ compensation attorneys with decades of experience, we can help determine whether your situation falls under the typical workers’ compensation claim or if it qualifies for one of the exceptions allowing for a lawsuit against your employer.
  • Guidance on Third-Party Claims. If a third party’s negligence is involved, we can help you pursue a personal injury lawsuit while also navigating the workers’ compensation system.
  • Advocating for Uninsured Worker Claims. If your employer lacks the required workers’ compensation insurance, we can advise on the best course of action, whether it’s pursuing a claim through the Uninsured Employers’ Fund or filing a lawsuit against the employer.

Reach Out for Experienced Legal Guidance – Schedule A Free Consultation With An Experienced Virginia Workers’ Compensation Lawyer.

If you’re wondering about your ability to sue your employer or have any other questions about workers’ compensation, contact us for a free consultation. With our extensive experience in Virginia’s workers’ compensation laws, we’re dedicated to guiding injured workers through these challenging times and helping them secure the compensation and benefits they deserve.