Does Workers’ Comp Always Shield Mississippi Employers from Civil Injury Claims?
In most cases, workers’ compensation is the exclusive remedy for injured workers in the Magnolia State. That’s because of the Grand Bargain between workers and management. In the early 1900s, workers surrendered their right to sue in court because management created a no-fault insurance system that compensated victims for their lost wages and medical bills.
However, workers’ compensation does not always prevent workers from bringing civil injury claims, as outlined below.
This issue is important. By pursuing a civil action, a Jackson workers’ compensation lawyer can obtain additional compensation for job injury victims. This additional compensation usually includes money for pain and suffering, loss of consortium (companionship), emotional distress, loss of enjoyment in life, and other noneconomic losses.
Assault and Ratification
Worker on worker assaults are rather common in Mississippi. Tensions often run high in stressful work environments. Assaults are particularly serious if the victim has a pre-existing condition which worsens the new injury. Many times in these situations, a little bit of force is enough to cause a serious injury.
Workers’ compensation usually does not apply in these cases. The victim’s injury was not due to a condition of employment. Instead, the employer might be liable for the additional damages described above, under a theory like negligent hiring or negligent supervision.
Employers might also be liable for additional damages if they ratify (cover up) the assault. That’s especially true if the coverup and delay causes the victim to suffer additional injuries.
Workers’ compensation is also irrelevant in defective product claims. Generally, manufacturers are strictly liable for the injuries their defective products cause. That defect could be:
- Manufacturing Defect: Vehicle airbags have saved countless lives since their introduction in the 1970s. For many years, Takata was one of the world’s largest airbag manufacturers. In the 1990s, executives replaced the stable chemical propellant with cheap ammonium nitrate. That’s the same compound Timothy McVeight used in the Oklahoma City truck bomb. The switch killed or seriously injured a number of people, and eventually forced the company into bankruptcy.
- Design Defect: The 1970s Ford Pinto is a good example of a design defect. To save money and weight, engineers designed this car with an unprotected gas tank behind the rear axle. That gas tank often broke and exploded, even in relatively low-speed crashes. Ford could have fixed the problem, but decided that it was cheaper to pay lawsuit settlements than to correct the design defect.
Product misuse is about the only defense in these claims. The company must prove the victim grossly misused the product, and that misuse caused the injury. “Gross misuse” typically means something like using a lawnmower to trim ivy on a brick wall.
Money is also an issue in this final area. Frequently, employers knowingly send workers into dangerous environments. Examples include failing to give workers the proper safety equipment, failing to instruct workers how to use that equipment, and sending workers to previous workplace accident areas.
Injured victims must prove extreme recklessness by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not).
Connect with a Savvy Attorney
Many injured workers are entitled to additional compensation. For a free consultation with an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer in Jackson, contact Lunsford, Baskin & Priebe, PLLC. We do not charge upfront legal fees in job injury cases.