Does workers' compensation insurance bar a civil lawsuit?

Amazon may be a great resource for shoppers, but is it an unsafe place to work? According to a recent article, workers in Amazon’s warehouses may face extreme heat, possibly in violation of safety regulations. Yet this is not the first time that the company has come under scrutiny. In fact, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration opened investigations into two different Amazon fulfillment centers last year, one of which was located in New Jersey. At that facility, a worker suffered fatal injuries in a workplace accident where he was dragged by a conveyor belt.

Although OSHA may have enforcement officers and the capacity to issue citations and fines for workplace safety violations, all of that may provide little comfort to a worker who has suffered an injury on the job. Technically fault is not a required showing for workers’ compensation benefits or eligibility. However, as a law firm that focuses on this area of law, we know that workers’ compensation benefits may not be the end of the story.

Specifically, in cases of extreme negligence, an employer may face additional liability, in addition to paying for workers’ compensation benefits. There may also be third parties at fault, such as a manufacturer of unsafe equipment, another vendor or subcontractor who was negligent, or a property owner who failed to take precautions against a foreseeable hazard.

An attorney can help investigate whether the negligence of a third party may have contributed to a workplace accident. If that inquiry suggests fault, a third-party claim in a civil lawsuit may be available. An attorney can also provide guidance to workers concerned about a potentially unsafe working environment, explaining the process of OHSA inspections. A proactive approach may help spare other workers from injury, but if that’s not possible, an attorney can also help injured workers seek all available benefits.