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Suing an employer for an on-the-job injury

Many workers in the Pittsburgh area who have been injured on the job may believe that they can sue their employer for the injuries they suffered. However, when an employee accepts workers' compensation for work-related injuries it can be difficult or impossible to sue an employer under many circumstances.

A recent case involving a waitress working for a New Jersey catering company highlights the issue. She was in the process of serving a flaming pig when the alcohol used to light the pig on fire erupted and burned her. She received workers' compensation for her injuries and tried to sue her employer as well. However, her case got thrown out of court because of workers' compensation laws.

Workers' compensation benefits are designed to help anyone who is injured on the job. It operates under what is known as a no-fault system. An injured worker files a claim and is awarded a set percentage of their wages no matter if the injury was the employer's fault or the employee's. Exceptions arise if the injury was self inflicted by the worker, the worker was under the influence of alcohol or drugs or the employer injured the worker intentionally. In the case above, the waitress could produce no evidence that her injuries were intentionally caused by the employer, so her case was dismissed.

While workers' compensation laws are beneficial to many injured employees, they can also represent a barrier for people who may have been injured due to an employer's carelessness. In cases such as the waitresses in this story, it's important to understand that workers' compensation may be the only type of compensation a worker can receive for their injuries. Because of this, it's important for an injured worker to take the necessary steps to get the compensation they may be entitled to.

Source: CBS Philadelphia, "Suing For Work-Related Injury", Amy E. Feldman, November 11, 2013

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