When Workers’ Comp Doesn’t Cover the Unthinkable
Sometimes an event is so disturbing and has such a long-lasting impact that our typical workers’ comp system doesn’t suffice. In that situation, what can workers do to recover from their injuries and find the healing and support they need?
Our Memphis workers’ comp attorneys have dealt with all sorts of situations where on-the-job injuries feel especially traumatic and confusing. A recent example out of Virginia offers some insight into what options people might have when negligence at work leads to catastrophic injury.
A Traumatic On-the-Job Event
One school day in January, first grade teacher Abigail Zwerner experienced an educator’s worst nightmare. Her six-year-old student came to school with a gun and shot her.
She survived with injuries to her shoulder and hand that required multiple surgeries. She spent weeks in the hospital. And she suffered from a traumatic event that no teacher – or any person – should ever face.
Typically if a teacher is injured on school property in the course of their normal work, it’s considered a workers’ comp claim. As many of us who handle workers’ comp cases have noted for years, that system has severe limitations that keep monetary damages very low.
Workers comp doesn’t take into consideration who was at fault in the injury. But in this case, there was possibly serious negligence at play. The school evidently knew about this child’s severe disciplinary problems. He had already choked another teacher and whipped his fellow students.
Now the teacher is suing the school board and other defendants for damages up to $40 million. She wants to hold them accountable for not protecting the teachers and students at the school and to get justice for what happened to her.
But the workers’ comp system doesn’t work like that. You can’t sue for that much money when the injury happened at work. As a result, a judge had to give her special permission to proceed with her case. Even now, it may be overturned on appeal.
Can Negligence Be Bigger Than Workers’ Comp?
In workers’ comp cases all across the United States, injured workers wish they had better options than the system in place.
Often, what happened to them feels extremely preventable. For example:
- Perhaps machinery malfunctions despite repeated warnings to the boss that it was unsafe.
- Or perhaps the employer creates a knowingly unsafe environment by forcing employees to work in low light or with structural damage.
- Or consider how, around the world, large factories and other workplaces have a long and dark history of preventable fires that cause mass tragedies when workers are caught inside.
In these extreme instances, what can you do?
While workers’ comp covers any employment injuries, sometimes the negligence is so great that you have a right to look at other legal options to hold the responsible party accountable.
The Limitations of Tennessee Workers’ Comp
In most states, and especially in Tennessee, this can be an uphill battle.
Tennessee workers’ comp is relatively strict and conservative compared to other states. We have a low maximum award amount, and generally it covers even the most preventable and catastrophic injuries, as long as they happened on the job.
In addition, workers’ comp insurance companies will sometimes give you wrong or false information or ignore you completely. They hope you’ll give up or walk away.
But you know an injustice occurred, and you have a right to pursue any legal option in your power.
How Talking with a Memphis Workers’ Comp Lawyer Can Help
For these extreme and complicated cases, you need to talk with a workers’ comp lawyer who also has extensive experience in personal injury law. They can help you figure out your options.
If your injury happened on the job, you’ll usually want to pursue your claim as a workers’ comp case. But in certain extreme cases – including some of the examples mentioned above – you may have a third-party claim that allows you to pursue justice beyond the workers’ comp system.
Our attorneys offer a free consultation where we will sit down and discuss your options. For complicated cases, we can give you an idea of how your claim might proceed, and why. And we don’t receive any payment unless and until we win your case.
We know how frustrating it can be to face a serious injury at work and not feel seen or heard in your pain. Our team will give you the compassion and respect you deserve while helping you get justice for your injuries.