Common wisdom dictates that you cannot sue if you collect Workers’ Compensation benefits. This is true — and it is also not true.
Massachusetts and federal law protect your employer from lawsuits if you get an injury on the job. However, there are plenty of people that these laws do not protect.
There are generally two parties to a simple lawsuit — you and someone who injured you, for example. As per FindLaw, there is also the possibility of third-party lawsuits. Workers’ comp even receives a mention in the dictionary definition of “third party claim”.
In the context of your injury at work, a third party might be an equipment manufacturer, a driver, a maintenance company, a product designer or any other individual or organization that contributed to your injury. You could potentially sue these people to recover damages in excess of Workers’ Compensation benefits.
Why bother with a third-party case?
So, the question becomes this: Why would you want to even bother suing someone who made a piece of defective equipment if you are already getting payment for your injuries and for your time off of work? The answer is that you could have injuries beyond what Workers’ Compensation covers. For example, you might want compensation for your pain and suffering if you had a severe, agonizing or debilitating injury.
Of course, this is not something that everyone does, and you should not feel compelled to sue. Instead, you might want to look at the details of your case and determine whether you have a fair and livable agreement under the current solution.
Third parties aside, you might have to do some work to get a fair deal from Workers’ Compensation alone. Insurance companies tend to funnel workers like you into the least expensive and, unfortunately, sometimes the least effective forms of treatment. Just because the system is non-adversarial does mean that you are getting the best deal that you could be.