A: Almost always, the answer is “no.” Why? Before we had workers’ compensation laws, the only way an injured worker could get paid was by going to court and proving his employer was at fault. Injured workers were left without medical care, and their families were homeless and starving long before these lawsuits every came to trial. Finally, the legislature decided action had to be taken to protect injured workers. Workers’ compensation laws were passed to force employers to pay compensation benefits to every worker hurt on the job — whether the injury was a true accident (no one’s fault), or even when it was the worker’s own fault. But in exchange for making an employer pay when it was not at fault, the legislature decided that the employer did not have to pay anything more than compensation benefits when the employer was at fault.
But: Where an employer requires the employee to perform work that exposes him to a “substantial certainty” of severe injury or death, the employer’s actions can be said to be so outrageous that a lawsuit may be possible on top of workers’ compensation benefits. This is a very difficult standard to meet. For this reason, these lawsuits are rare and really depend on exactly what the employer did to cause the injury or death.