David Winnett Discusses Workers' Compensation and Litigation in Organized Labor's Ask the Expert Column

Question:

I hurt myself at work recently while I was operating a stand up lift truck with the forks trailing, such that the rear of the truck was facing forward. As I was slowing down, I lost my balance and my leg moved outside of the operator compartment, causing it to be crushed between the truck and a fixed metal shelf. The rear of the truck was open, meaning that there was nothing preventing my body from falling out of the truck.

Am I entitled to workers' compensation benefits for my injuries? If I do receive workers' compensation benefits, will I be prevented from suing the manufacturer of the truck for failing to equip the truck with adequate safety measures?

Answer:

Since you were injured at work, you are entitled to workers' compensation benefits. Even more importantly, however, the fact that you may be entitled to workers' compensation benefits does not necessarily prevent you from suing the manufacturer and supplier of the truck. Although the workers' compensation system is designed to provide necessary medical treatment and lost wages to injured workers, it often does not provide an injured worker with a full and complete recovery of emotional distress, pain and suffering, and other similar damages suffered by an injured worker and his or her family. Those types of damages would only be available in a lawsuit against the companies that were involved in the manufacture and sale of the truck.

For additional advice as to what you should do in your specific situation, you should consult with attorneys who specialize in workers' compensation and personal injury claims as soon as possible, because both of these types of claims have strict rules and time limits to follow.