What happens when you get hurt at work?

Workplace injuries are given unique treatment under the law. If a person is injured while not at work, and someone else is responsible, the victim can sue the at-fault party. One of the most common examples is in the case of a car accident that is caused by the negligence of another driver. The injured driver can recover compensation for his injury by suing the negligent driver. If a worker is injured at work, however, the worker cannot normally sue the employer. Instead, the employer’s workers’ compensation insurance is required to compensate the worker regardless of who was at fault. The upside is that a worker can normally be assured of compensation without having to prove negligence. The downside is that because the worker cannot sue the employer directly, the worker usually cannot collect as much as he might in a negligence lawsuit. For example, the worker cannot normally collect for pain and suffering against the employer.

Under New Hampshire law, for an employer to be liable for a worker’s at-work injury, the injury must “arise out of” and occur “in the course of” employment. Sometimes employers attempt to use these terms to avoid having to compensate their injured workers.  In the recent case of Appeal of Brandon Kelly, Mr. Kelly was driving to a job site in a company truck when he fell asleep at the wheel resulting in a serious car accident and injuries. While there was no dispute that Mr. Kelly’s injuries occurred “in the course of” his employment his employer convinced the New Hampshire Compensation Appeals Board that the injuries did not “arise out of” his employment because there was no evidence that the conditions of his employment caused him to get tired and fall asleep.

Mr. Kelly successfully appealed the ruling to the New Hampshire Supreme Court. The Court reversed the decision and ordered that Mr. Kelly should be compensated. The Court reasoned regardless of what caused Mr. Kelly to get tired, Mr. Kelly’s job required him to be drive, thus his employment was a “substantial contributing factor to the injury” and Mr. Kelly should have been compensated for his injuries. We hope this answers the question: What happens when you get hurt at work?

The key takeaway is that workers’ compensation may cast a thinner net, but it is very wide. If a worker is injured at work, even if the worker was partially to blame, he may still be able to recover.


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