Why Can’t I Sue My Employer If I am Injured at Work?

31-2-3477 Innarella v. Wedgewood Condominium Association, Inc. , N.J. Super. App. Div. (per curiam) (11 pp.)

Submitted by New Jersey Workers Comp Lawyer, Jeffrey Hark.

Most workplace accidents are covered by Worker’s Compensation.  This statutory scheme forbids injured employees from suing their employers and in return, they are guaranteed certain payment without having to bring suit and prove negligence or something similar.  There are some circumstances that are not covered by Worker’s Compensation, however. These can include but are not limited to independent contractors, volunteers, clergy members, amateur athletics, certain maritime trades, and minors.  If you do not fall into an exempted category, you must file for Worker’s Compensation benefits and you are not allowed to sue your employer.  Sometimes it is worth attempting to argue that you are not an employee covered by Worker’s Compensation so that you can bring suit for personal injury.

This happened in a recent case involving an employee of a condo association.  The employee contracted with the condo association to perform work as a superintendent.  When a new company took over the condo association, a new contract was never signed.  However, the employee still took assignments from the new company, as if they had signed a contract.  After the employee was injured from falling down a staircase, he sued the new owners, claiming he was no longer an employee since there was no contract.

The Court found that there was an “implied” contract because the parties were acting in a manner as if they had actually signed a contract.  Even though the employee tried to argue that his duties differed, that there was a nondelegation clause in the previous contract, and that he is not covered by the Worker’s Compensation statute, his arguments failed.  The Court found that he was a contract employee and was covered under Worker’s Compensation.  This meant he was barred from suing his employer for negligence, and that his only remedy was Worker’s Compensation benefits.

If you are injured at work, contact an experienced Worker’s Compensation attorney to make sure that you are a covered employee, and how your rights could be affected.

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