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Can I Get Workers' Compensation if I'm At-Fault?

Before workers’ compensation laws swept the nation, injured employees had almost nowhere to turn. Employees would suffer all kinds of injuries on-the-job – amputations, herniated disks, traumatic brain injuries, paralysis from falls, cancer from chemical exposure, deafness from exposure to loud noise, and even death but it would be the “little guy” against a big company with deep pockets and expensive lawyers. More often than not, the little guy would lose.

Workers across the nation can be thankful that legislators recognized the problem and enacted workers’ compensation laws that have now been adopted in all 50 states. Not only do these laws protect injured, ill, and the surviving family members of workers who died from their work-related injuries and occupational diseases, but they shield employers from lawsuits filed by employees. It’s a win-win arrangement.

But what about fault? How does workers’ compensation work when an employee is partially, or fully to blame for the accident? Is the employee out of luck, or can they still receive workers’ compensation benefits?

Workers’ Compensation is a No-Fault System

If you’re even slightly worried that an employee’s fault could bar him or her from collecting workers’ compensation benefits, we have good news: Workers’ compensation is a no-fault system, which means it doesn’t matter who’s at fault. If the employee qualifies for benefits, fault will NOT be a factor in the determination process. In other words, it doesn’t matter if the worker is 100% to blame, or if the employer is.

“Are there any exceptions?” Yes, there are but they make sense if you think about it. The only times that a worker may not be eligible for benefits is because:

  • The worker was under the influence of alcohol at the time of the accident.
  • The worker was under the influence of illegal drugs at the time of the accident.
  • The worker was intentionally trying to inflict harm on someone else, such as a co-worker when the accident occurred.
  • The worker was intentionally trying to harm themselves.
  • The injury was not work-related.

Unless you were under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or intentionally trying to hurt yourself or someone else at the time of the accident, you’re likely entitled to workers’ compensation, assuming you meet the criteria for a qualifying employee.

Even if you were 100% to blame for the accident, please don’t let that stop you from filing a much-needed claim for workers’ compensation benefits. Employees file claims all the time for injuries they are responsible for and that’s not uncommon, nor is it a disqualifier.

To explore your options, we invite you to contact us to meet with a Columbia workers’ compensation lawyer.