Can You Still Sue If You Accept Workers’ Compensation?

Can You Sue If You Accept Workers' Compensation?

Can You Sue If You Accept Workers' Compensation?

Workers’ compensation programs allow workers suffering temporary or permanent disabilities resulting from work-related accidents or illnesses to obtain reimbursement for medical expenses and lost wages. This no fault compensation system generally prohibits injured workers from filing personal injury lawsuits against their employers. However, there are some situations in which an employer or a third party may be sued, even if workers’ comp benefits are paid.

The advantage of workers’ compensation is that benefits are usually paid right away, while in a personal injury lawsuit, it can take months if not years for an injured worker to see a recovery of damages. The downside of workers’ compensation is that recoveries are limited.

Disability payments to injured workers are calculated as a percentage of their earnings and do not include damages for pain and suffering, which are recoverable in a personal injury lawsuit. Also, workers cannot assert punitive damages claims against their employers.

Deadline to File Workers’ Compensation Claim in Washington, D.C.

In Washington, D.C., individuals who have suffered an injury at their place of work must adhere to specific deadlines to file a workers’ compensation claim. It is mandatory for the injured party to report the incident to their employer within 30 days of the injury. Failure to meet this initial reporting requirement can jeopardize the ability to pursue workers’ compensation benefits. 

There is also a deadline to file the actual claim: the injured worker must formally file a claim for workers’ compensation within one year following the date of the injury, or within one year after the last payment of benefits, whichever is later.

When Can An Employee Sue?

There are exceptions to the general prohibition against injured workers suing their employers. One exception is where the employer does not have workers’ compensation coverage or has insufficient coverage. In that event, the employer may be held personally liable for damages.

Another exception is for injuries resulting from intentional acts by the employer, such as knowingly putting a worker in a dangerous situation without adequate safety equipment. Although difficult to prove, intentional wrongs expose the employer to claims for pain and suffering damages and, if appropriate, punitive damages.

The injured worker may also sue third parties who may have been at fault. Construction site accidents can involve the negligence of contractors, subcontractors, project managers and others. A delivery worker could be injured in a motor vehicle accident caused by the negligence of another driver.

A manufacturing employee could be injured while operating machinery which has design defects. In all these examples, the injured worker may file personal injury lawsuits against the third parties without affecting his or workers’ compensation claim.

Damages That Can Be Recovered in a Personal Injury Lawsuit

When pursuing a personal injury lawsuit in Washington DC, plaintiffs may be entitled to various types of damages. These damages aim to compensate the injured party for losses incurred due to the accident and can be broadly categorized into economic, non-economic, and, in rare cases, punitive damages.

Economic Damages: This category covers tangible, out-of-pocket expenses such as medical bills, rehabilitation costs, lost wages, and property damage. Economic damages are quantifiable losses that can be calculated and proven with bills, receipts, and other documentation.

Non-Economic Damages: These are awarded for intangible losses that are not easily quantifiable. This includes compensation for pain and suffering, emotional distress, loss of enjoyment of life, and loss of consortium. Determining the value of non-economic damages often requires expert testimony and a thorough understanding of the impact of the injuries on the plaintiff’s life.

Punitive Damages: Unlike the first two types, punitive damages are not aimed at compensating the victim but rather punishing the defendant for particularly reckless or malicious behavior. While rare in personal injury cases in Washington DC, they may be considered in instances of egregious wrongdoing.

…clear and convincing evidence: (1) that the defendant acted with evil motive, actual malice, deliberate violence or oppression, or with intent to injure, or in willful disregard for the rights of the plaintiff;


(2) that the defendant’s conduct itself was outrageous, grossly fraudulent, or reckless toward the safety of the plaintiff.

Understanding the categorization of damages in a personal injury lawsuit within Washington DC is crucial for plaintiffs seeking to recover the full spectrum of compensatory and, where applicable, punitive damages for their losses.

Statute of Limitations for Personal Injury Lawsuits in Washington, D.C.

The importance of understanding the statute of limitations cannot be overstated for individuals pursuing personal injury lawsuits in Washington, D.C. Generally, the law provides a three-year period from the date of the accident for plaintiffs to file a lawsuit against the responsible party. 

§ 12–301. Limitation of time for bringing actions.

[(a)] Except as otherwise specifically provided by law, actions for the following purposes may not be brought after the expiration of the period specified below from the time the right to maintain the action accrues:

(3) for the recovery of damages for an injury to real or personal property— 3 years;

However, there are notable exceptions to this rule that can either extend or shorten this timeframe.

For example, if the injury involves a government entity, the time to file a claim may be significantly reduced, requiring prompt action. Additionally, for minors, the statute of limitations may not begin until they reach the age of majority, thereby extending the period in which a lawsuit can be filed. It’s crucial for potential plaintiffs to be aware of these exceptions to ensure they do not forfeit their right to seek compensation due to procedural oversights.

Contact Lightfoot Law, PLLC Today

Located in the District of Columbia, Lightfoot Law, PLLC handles workers’ compensation and workplace death claims in Washington, D. C. area. To schedule a free initial consultation with one of our experienced workers’ compensation attorneys, call us at 202-919-5453 or contact us online.