How to File a Work-Related Accident Lawsuit

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Written By Rocky Horton

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You may have been hurt in an accident or developed a chronic condition due to your work. While you would normally be covered by workers’ compensation, sometimes extenuating circumstances prevent this. For example, your employer may refuse to file a claim, or your claim was not sufficiently compensated to pay for all your medical costs. 

In that case, you may be eligible for a work-related accident lawsuit, also known as a workers’ comp lawsuit. This case could be against your employer or a third party, such as the manufacturer of the machine that caused your injury. You may also wish to sue the workers’ comp insurers for failing to compensate you adequately.

No matter which defendant you choose, hire a work-related accident lawyer to help you assemble the right case and file it on time to get the compensation you deserve.

Workers’ Compensation Claims vs Work-Related Accident Lawsuits

Workers’ compensation claims settle work injury-related medical costs with employees using insurance bought by their employer. If this compensation is insufficient or the employee feels misused in another way, they can opt for a work-related accident lawsuit instead against their employer, the workers’ comp insurers, or a third party.

Workers’ Compensation Claims

In most states, employers are legally obligated to purchase workers’ compensation insurance for their employees. This ensures that their workers have financial recourse if they injure themselves, other than suing the employer or the company outright.

Workers’ compensation claims pay employees for the medical costs of treating injuries, such as:

  • Overexertion injuries
  • Slip and fall accidents
  • Falling object accidents
  • Vehicular accidents
  • Machine-related accidents
  • Chronic injuries

Chronic injuries such as repetitive motion injuries tend to be harder to settle due to having less evidence and requiring more assumptions. Workers’ comp may also compensate employees for partial or total disability if their injuries prevent them from returning to their job or change the hours they can work.

Workers’ comp may cover medical costs, lost wages, therapy bills, disability benefits, transportation costs, housekeeping costs, and anything else you must pay due to your injury. You usually just file the claim with your employer and cooperate with the workers’ comp attorneys to get your settlement.

Work-Related Accident Lawsuits

However, receiving workers’ comp is not always so simple. Sometimes, employers illegally deny their workers coverage or terminate them after the accident. In other cases, the workers’ comp insurers may not compensate the employee fully due to pre-existing conditions, evidence, witness accounts, the doctor’s examination, and more.

Even if you receive workers’ comp, you may want to pursue a work-related accident lawsuit against a product manufacturer or other third party to receive additional compensation. If you sue a third party, your employer will likely stay out of it. If you sue your employer, you may win additional compensation, but you could endanger your ability to receive future benefits.

What To Do After a Work-Related Accident?

Follow these steps after a work-related accident to ensure that you are safe and can make a strong case later:

  • Document the Accident – Report the accident to your supervisor right away so they can begin the workers’ comp process. Retrieve your medical records, relevant witness statements, a copy of your employer’s safety procedures, and a copy of the police report, if applicable.
  • Seek Medical Attention – Make sure you seek immediate medical attention for your injury, at an emergency room if necessary. Confirm with your employer or the workers’ comp insurers whether you need to see a designated workers’ comp doctor. Follow any advice you get from the doctors since failing to do so could hurt your case later.
  • Work with Your Employer to File a Workers’ Comp Claim – In most cases, your employer will have your back when filing a workers’ comp claim for your accident since they don’t want you to sue them. They should provide the necessary paperwork and tell you whether you need to see a special doctor.
  • File a Work-Related Accident Lawsuit if Necessary – If you are not appropriately compensated for your injuries, you may file a work-related accident lawsuit against your employer, the insurers, or a third party.

When to File a Work-Related Accident Lawsuit?

Since filing a workers’ comp lawsuit is a time-consuming and complicated process that could jeopardize your job, it’s important to know when you are justified in filing one. These lawsuits usually involve an employer who wrongfully denies you benefits for any of the following reasons:

  1. Refusal to file a claim – Sometimes, employers can illegally refuse to file your workers’ comp claim because they don’t believe you or they fear litigation.
  2. Claim denied – Not all filed claims are guaranteed to compensate your medical costs. Based on the exam of the workers’ comp doctor, failing to meet the statute of limitations, or on extenuating evidence, the insurers may not settle with you.
  3. Employer does not have appropriate insurance – Employers do not always have adequate coverage for their workers, leaving you without compensation if you are injured at work.

How Do Work-Related Accident Lawsuits Work?

Under normal circumstances, you cannot sue your employer for work-related accidents if they have workers’ comp set up. However, if the employer does not provide workers’ comp insurance, refuses to file a claim, or caused your injury, you may be eligible to file a work-related accident lawsuit.

While the process is slightly different in every state, most allow you to appeal to your state’s Workers’ Compensation Board. If that doesn’t work, your state may have an Office of Administrative Hearings where you can file a petition for your benefits.

A judge will hear your case and determine whether you or your employer have a stronger case. Even if you win, most states require that you pay back the workers’ comp benefits to your employer if you win a work-related accident lawsuit. This prevents people from double-dipping benefits.

File an Appeal with the State’s Workers Compensation Board

Most states allow you to file an appeal with the Workers’ Compensation Board if you believe your compensation was not adequate. This is not always necessary to file a workers’ comp lawsuit, but some states require it.

Appeals usually must be filed within two years of the injury date, but this can vary. Speak with your attorney about your eligibility for an appeal.

File a Complaint

The complaint informs the defendant (whether your employer, the insurers, or an equipment manufacturer) that you will be legally pursuing compensation for your injuries.

What to Include in the Complaint

The complaint should include your choice of defendant, the facts of how the injury occurred, your calculated injury expenses, and the compensation you hope to receive. This doesn’t guarantee the amount of compensation you will get, but the court needs to know what you expect.

Additionally, the cost of filing your complaint differs by state but can be less than $100 or as much as $300.

Where to File the Complaint

Where you should file the complaint differs by state and by the situation but could include the State Department of Labor, Employment, or Occupational Health and Safety. Speak with an attorney to learn about the process of filing a complaint in your state.

Serve the Complaint

The best way to serve a workers’ comp lawsuit complaint is to hire an attorney to take care of the process. They will either serve it in person, by U.S. Marshal, or possibly via a Waiver of Service. This document allows the defendant to waive the requirement of an in-person complaint and respond to it by mail.

Discovery Phase

The discovery phase involves gathering the evidence that supports each claim, including anything linking your injury to your work activities. The defendant may present information that seeks to prove that your injury was caused outside of work.

Discovery Information

The information gathered in the discovery phase can include your medical records, camera footage of the incident, witness testimonies, the testimonies of medical professionals, and more.

Methods of Discovery

Discovery information is primarily acquired through direct questioning, written questioning or interrogatories, depositions, and document requests, also called motions for production.

Civil Trial

A civil trial begins after your complaint has been served and the discovery has been performed in preparation. The judge may encourage the two legal teams to settle while deciding what information from the discovery will be admissible in the trial.

Then, that information along with witness testimonies and other accounts, will be heard in the trial, which ends in a “closing argument.” This is when each side will present a summary of their claims and intentions. The judge will then assign damages and compensation based on their verdict.

Workers Comp Lawsuit Settlements

The average workers’ comp settlement nationwide is around $20,000-$22,000, but every case is different. Lawsuits are even more varied depending on the situation.

The severity of the injury, the evidence gathered by the insurers and yourself, as well as the judgment of the court can cause your settlement amount to vary widely. For instance, if multiple body parts were injured, you can expect a higher settlement, though you cannot make multiple cases for the same injury.

Other factors that could influence your settlement include the total or partial disability you sustained because of the injury, the wages you lost, and the potential retraining or relocation costs you will have to pay.

Hiring a Lawyer for a Work-Related Accident Lawsuit

Whether you file a workers’ comp claim or a work-related accident lawsuit, you may have issues getting compensation. A lawyer experienced with work-related accident lawsuits can help you compile the evidence and file by your state’s statute of limitations.

If necessary, they can also help you escalate your claim to a workers’ comp lawsuit. These cases are more difficult than workers’ comp claims because you are targeting someone for compensation rather than validating a settlement your employer already insured.

While your employer is usually protected against work-related accident lawsuits, they may deny you your right to compensation after a serious injury or after the diagnosis of a chronic injury. In that case, a lawyer can help you file a lawsuit against them or a third party to recoup your medical costs and help you recover from your injury.


A workers’ comp lawsuit should never have to happen since workers’ compensation should pay employees for damages they sustain while on the job. However, not all employers or insurers do what they should, leaving some employees with no other option except a lawsuit. The complexity of these cases makes it imperative to hire a lawyer experienced in workers’ comp lawsuits to help you get the compensation you deserve.

Rocky Horton

Rocky Horton


Rocky Horton is a health and safety expert from Chapel Hill, NC. He is the founder of AccidentAdvisor and has been featured in Forbes, Bloomberg, and other publications. Learn more.