A workplace injury, especially a painful or disabling one, can leave you reeling. You may want to know all your available options so you can claim all the benefits you are entitled to. An option many people consider and ask me about is if they can forego workers compensation benefits and sue their employer so that they can collect on some of the benefits that Virginia workers compensation does not address (like pain and suffering or negligence).
For the most part, no, you cannot sue your employer. You can only collect workers compensation benefits.
Why Can’t You Sue?
The workers’ compensation system was created as a trade-off. It benefits both the employer and the employee because it does not assign fault and it is not designed as a punitive system. Whether or not the injury was your fault, you are eligible to receive workers’ compensation benefits to compensate you for missed time from work and medical bills related to the injury. In return, workers are not allowed to sue their employers. Almost all employers are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance. In return, they are protected from lawsuits brought by injured employees.
The only case in which you may sue an employer for a workplace injury is if you believe that the injury was intentional; therefore, if you have substantial evidence, you can bring it to court and have a jury decide your case.