In most states, workers compensation programs limit an employee’s ability to sue an employer for injuries. This restriction applies even to accidents directly caused by a boss or manager’s negligence, their explicit failure to take proper care. By reducing the risk of personal injury lawsuits, workers comp effectively saves employer’s money, which they are required to spend on insurance policies for their workers.
But most nail gun accidents don’t directly involve a worker’s boss. Beyond self-inflicted puncture wounds, a large proportion of injuries are caused by errant nails, fired from guns half-way across the site. These nails may ricochet off particularly tough knots in a work piece, or the work might have been completely missed. For a look at other common causes of nailer injuries, click here.

In these situations, it’s obvious that a coworker, rather than an employer, is at fault for the injury. But workers comp is tricky. In this guide, we’ll tell you whether or not you can pursue a coworker in court.

Why You Probably Can’t Sue A CoworkerMan wearing hard hat while using a nail gun

In some cases, courts use a legal doctrine called respondeat superior. This Latin phrase translates into “let the superior (your boss) answer,” and it means that employer’s are often held accountable for the actions of their employees. Obviously, this only holds for acts performed “in the scope of employment” – you wouldn’t hold a boss responsible for a car accident that happened when their employee was off-duty.

But it means that responsibility flows upward, from workers to management and ownership. Workers comp insurance was designed to replace as many civil lawsuits as possible. And because responsibility flows upward, the vast majority of injury claims will be covered by your employer’s workers comp insurance, even when a coworker was to blame. Workers compensation covers the entire workplace, not just the actions of a boss or authority figure. Just as responsibility flows upward, protection from legal claims “trickles down.”

But You Might Be Able To, In Limited Circumstances

If you believe that your coworker:

  1. Violated a federal or state law in causing your injury
  2. Violated company policy
  3. Intended to harm you

you may be able to sue for damages. These situations bypass workers comp laws because they involve actions performed outside the scope of employment. Most employers don’t condone, or promote, illegal activities and they certainly don’t want company policies broken.

What About Third Party Lawsuits?

Workers comp claims involve two parties: you and your employer. After a workplace injury, you almost always have the right to file a workers comp claim. But if someone outside your immediate company contributed to the accident, you may have an additional right to file a lawsuit against them. They become a “third party” in your claims.

Contact A Nail Gun Accident Lawyer

Were you injured in a nail gun accident? Contact the personal injury attorneys at Banville Law and speak with an experienced lawyer today. After reviewing your case, we’ll give you clear answers to your most pressing questions. We offer a free consultation to all injured workers, at no obligation. Call 877-752-0980 or fill out our contact form.