A workplace can certainly be a dangerous place. In fact, over 11,500 workers’ compensation claims have already been filed in California so far this year, and millions are filed across the nation every year. While many workplace accidents and injuries are covered by your employer’s workers’ compensation insurance, you may be wondering if an injury could require you to file a personal injury lawsuit.

But can you even sue your employer for a workplace injury in California? This article will answer this question and others to help you understand your rights under both Federal and California laws.

Understanding Workplace Injuries and Your Employee Rights

What is workers’ compensation, anyway?

The United States worker’s compensation program was the first form of social insurance to develop across the nation. The program can often provide medical care and cash benefits to employees who are suffering from workplace injuries and illnesses. It also provides survivor benefits to dependents of employees whose deaths resulted from workplace incidents. Today, California and all other U.S. states have their own workers’ compensation rules and programs in place.

What do California workers’ compensation laws offer injured employees?

In the state of California, if you are an employee who sustains an “industrial injury,” you could be entitled to cash and medical benefits through the California workers’ compensation program.

Under California law, your employer’s workers’ comp insurance will typically offer the following basic benefits:

  • temporary disability benefits for any lost income while you took time off work for an injury that occurred in the workplace;
  • payment of all of our medical bills related to your work-related injury or illness;
  • a permanent disability award at the end of your workers’ comp case (based on calculations of residual injury associated with each body part that was affected, adjusted by your future earning capacity).

Can I sue my employer for a workplace injury in California?

To put it plainly: It depends. You generally cannot sue your employer for work-related injuries, but under certain circumstances you can sue your employer for a work-related injury in the state of California. While the general rule is that employees can only receive compensation from their employer’s workers’ comp insurance, there are exceptions to this rule.

You may be able to sue your California employer for the following damages caused by work-related illnesses and injuries:

  • If you sustained a work-related injury due to your employer’s intentional or negative conduct.
  • If your employer doesn’t carry required workers’ compensation insurance.

Additionally, you may be able to sue other individuals and manufacturers for work-related illnesses or injuries if you’ve been subjected to the following:

  • You were injured on the job by a defective product.
  • You were injured on the job by a toxic substance.

When should you file a California personal injury claim against your employer?

While workers’ compensation programs provide injured employees with some money and benefits, the payments are generally small and also don’t compensate workers for pain and suffering. This is why it’s important to know that you can sometimes file personal workplace injury claims against your employer that may offer you more benefits.

Workers’ comp systems offer punitive damages to punish employers who fail to implement proper safety controls in the workplace, as well. Your California employer is required to abide by the Cal/OSHA guidelines. If you notice hazardous working conditions, you can contact a California labor and employment attorney to help you file a complaint.

Dealing with Injuries in the California Workplace: For Further Reading

  • California Workers’ Compensation Legal Library via
  • Health and Safety Rights: Facts for California Workers via Cal/OSHA
  • How to File a Workers’ Compensation Claim via State of California Department of Industrial Relations
  • Workers’ Compensation in California: A Guidebook for Injured Workers via State of California Department of Industrial Relations

No one should have to work in a hazardous work environment and employers should be held accountable if an employee sustains a workplace injury or illness. If you feel your employer is violating your employee rights and protections, contact the California employment lawyers at Hennig Ruiz for a free consultation right away.