Work-related injuries “caused” by a co-worker
If you are injured at work, you are eligible to collect worker’s compensation benefits. If your injury was not caused by a specific accident or was not the fault of a specific person or company, worker’s compensation benefits provide the full extent of your case. These situations are fairly straightforward.
If however, another person was responsible for your injury, you may wonder if you are justified in holding them responsible. Maybe you sustained an injury because of something a co-worker did (or didn’t do) while you were both on the job. Under Indiana law, you cannot sue a co-worker for causing your work-related injury, unless you can prove that the co-worker deliberately sought to cause you harm. You cannot sue your employer either. Worker’s compensation laws protect both co-workers and employers from being sued by injured workers. However, depending on the situation, you may still be able to sue for damages.
Consider this example of a co-worker’s apparent negligence:
You are working a construction job and a co-worker drops some forming material. It hits you and you sustain injuries to your arm and hand. You cannot sue your co-worker for dropping the forming material, but you might be able to file a complaint against the construction manager if you think they bear some responsibility for your injury. If that company has indicated—either “by contract” or “by conduct”—that they assume responsibility for employee safety, then the company can be held liable for your injury. If the construction manager’s contract says that the construction manager is responsible for enforcing safety regulations, performing safety inspections, and addressing any safety violations, then they are responsible for ensuring employee safety “by contract.” Even if construction managers do not assume a duty of safety by contract, they can still assume this duty “by conduct.” If the construction manager takes on extra tasks to ensure safety beyond what is stated in the contract—such as appointing a safety director, holding weekly safety meetings, and conducting daily safety inspections—then they have also assumed responsibility for employee safety.
Several recent Indiana cases involving scenarios like the one described above have not resulted in a “win” for the injured worker. Understand that suing a construction or general manager is not a guaranteed victory. The key to “winning” lies in a careful examination of contracts and the manager’s conduct at your workplace. If you believe that your workplace injury entitles you to damages beyond your worker’s compensation benefits, trust that we will give your case our full attention and effort.