Oregon and Washington both have statutorily defined workers compensation benefits. If injured on the job in either state, an injured worker is entitled to these benefits. Medical bills, wage loss, retraining and a permanent partial disability award are common examples. Workers compensation coverage is true “no fault” insurance. Meaning, you don’t have to prove anyone did anything wrong to recover. A worker can essentially trip over their shoelaces to become injured. They are still entitled to benefits. What if the employer did something negligent that caused the injury to occur? Can a separate suit be started against the employer? Usually not. Suits against the company are almost always barred by state immunity laws. If a worker is covered under workers compensation an employer can violate all sorts of industrial safety rules and still be immune from any suit brought by an employee. In order to get around this immunity rule a worker must show the act committed by the employer almost rose to the level of a criminal assault. Only an injury that was intentionally caused by an employer allows a worker to file suit. There are however, times when an injury on the job entitles the worker to more than just workers compensation benefits. Suits referred to as “third party actions” typically allow injured workers to recover workers compensation benefits and still file a claim against a “third party”. The classic example of a “third party” is an employee from another company who does some negligent act injuring someone at the job site. These types of cases often arise at construction sites, where employees from several companies are working in close proximity. Another example is a member of the public coming onto the worksite and creating some mishap injuring a worker. Sometimes it is difficult to tell if a “third party” is involved. When any “third party” is responsible for a worker’s injury, the entitlement to workers compensation benefits is precisely the same as if a fellow employee caused the accident. The injured worker gets his benefits just as fast either way. Unfortunately, these benefits do not pay any compensation for pain and suffering. Nor do they pay any compensation for how the injury affected someone’s health or their ability to enjoy everyday activities. Wage loss benefits are also less than what the worker was actually paid while working. Finally, the workers compensation benefits for retraining are woefully inadequate. Many states do not even require the injured worker be retrained into a similar paying job. This is why it is important to determine if any “third party” was responsible for any work site injury. If they are, an injured worker would be wise to exercise his or her rights to seek more than just the workmen compensation benefits available.
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