WORKPLACE INJURIES AND THE CONNECTICUT WORKERS’ COMPENSATION LAWS
I was injured at work, can I sue my employer? With some limited exceptions the answer is no. The Connecticut Workers’ Compensation Act provides that an employer who has complied with the compensation laws will not be liable for damages for injuries or death beyond the benefits afforded by the Act. When an employee suffers injury or death which arises out of and in the course of employment, benefits under the Act are triggered. Those benefits include payment of reasonable and necessary medical expenses and wage loss benefits for any period of total or partial incapacity, as well as additional benefits for any permanent impairment that result from the consequences of the injury. Where the claim involves the death of an employee, survivor benefits are paid to the spouse or dependent children of the deceased employee.
In order to recover benefits under the Act, an employee who suffers a workplace injury must file a notice of claim within one year from the date of the accident, or three years form manifestation of symptoms of an occupational disease. While there are exceptions to the formal notice requirements in certain circumstances, it is always recommended that a formal notice be filed and a claim established as soon as an employee becomes aware that a workplace injury or disease might be covered under the Act. If a workplace injury or occupational disease results in the death of the employee, the surviving spouse and certain classes of dependents may be entitled to recover death benefits. Once a claim is deemed compensable under the Act, it is administered under the jurisdiction of the Workers’ Compensation Commission, and any disputes between the employer and the employee as to the reasonableness of the medical treatment, or the level of benefits to which the employee is entitled, are resolved by the Workers’ Compensation Commissioner for the district where the claim is pending.
For workplace injuries covered by the Act, the employee is normally precluded from bringing a separate lawsuit to recover damages beyond the compensation benefits afforded by the Act. Exceptions to this rule include the right to file a lawsuit against a fellow employee while operating a motor vehicle; injuries caused by defective products; and injuries caused by the intentional conduct of others, including fellow employees or the employer.
The Workers’ Compensation Act is comprised of a series of complex laws that spell out under what circumstances an employee is entitled to benefits; what those benefit levels include; and when a lawsuit can be maintained simultaneously with the recovery of compensation benefits. Any employee who suffers a workplace injury is well advised to seek assistance from an attorney knowledgeable in workers’ compensation laws in order to assure maximum recovery from all possible sources.