When Can Washington, D.C. Workers Recover Through a Personal Injury Lawsuit?

Washington, D.C.’s Workers’ Compensation Act provides some degree of protection to many injured workers. However, the Act does not protect all workers, does not provide benefits to all family members, and limits the beneficiaries who are able to recover. Under section 32-1504 of the Workers’ Compensation Act (the Act), an employer’s liability under the Act is the exclusive liability of the employer. Thus, a workers’ compensation case may be an injured worker’s only way to recover damages from their employer. The idea is that an employee gives up the right to pursue a tort claim against an employer in exchange for an easier means of recovery through the workers’ compensation system. This means that, normally, claims must be brought first before the Office of Workers’ Compensation and will generally be resolved through the agency.

However, Washington, D.C. law allows an employee to pursue a claim against a third party if a third party, such as a contractor, causes the plaintiff’s injury. In addition, injuries that are intentionally inflicted upon an employee and intended by the employer fall outside of the Act.

A recent case before one state’s supreme court demonstrates the limitations of the intentional-injury exception to that state’s workers’ compensation act. In that case, the plaintiff’s husband worked at a trucking and warehousing company. One day, after working long hours, his rig ran off the highway and rolled over, killing the plaintiff’s husband. The plaintiff filed a claim arguing that her husband was killed because he was overworked by the employer.

As in Washington, D.C., the jurisdiction where the case arose has an intentional-injury exception for cases involving intentional injuries to workers. Yet, the court held that the claims were barred by the exclusive remedy provision of the Workers’ Compensation Act. The court explained that the plaintiff did not present sufficient evidence that the employer believed it was “substantially certain” that the plaintiff’s husband would fall asleep while driving from being overworked. The court held that evidence that the company illegally required employees to work long hours and falsify sleep records was not sufficient because there was no evidence indicated the employer’s intentional acts specifically caused the husband’s death, whether the employer intended the husband’s death, and whether the employer believed that the plaintiff’s husband’s accident was substantially certain. Therefore, there was no issue of fact concerning the intentional-injury exception to the exclusive remedy provision of the Act and the plaintiff’s only remedy was through the workers’ compensation act.

Contact a Washington, D.C. Personal Injury Lawyer for Immediate Assistance

At Lebowitz & Mzhen, Personal Injury Lawyers, our attorneys represent clients in Washington, D.C. car accident cases, medical malpractice suits, and other personal injury claims. Our firm handles cases throughout the Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. areas and understands what it takes to build a successful case. Our legal team works closely with experts to evaluate a claim and aggressively pursue the financial compensation that the client deserves. To set up a free initial consultation with a lawyer regarding a Washington, D.C. personal injury claim, call us today toll-free at (800) 654-1949 or contact us online.

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