Most workers' compensation laws also provide employers and co-workers with a certain level of protection, by limiting the amount employees can recover from their employers, and prohibiting, in most cases, injured employees from suing their co-workers. In essence, workers' compensation is a no-fault system, where an injured worker's own negligence, or the negligence of his or her employer or co-workers, is not put at issue; rather, the injured employee is simply covered for his or her work-related injuries.
Thus, workers' compensation is an injured worker's "exclusive remedy" with respect to a work-related injury, unless he or she can point to a third party who contributed to his or her injuries. For example, because workers are often injured by products or machinery they use at work, they may, and often do, seek compensation from the manufacturers of such products. Employers are generally not directly involved in the third-party claims of their employees, and such claims take place in civil actions, rather than in the workers' compensation system. In most cases, however, an employer can recoup its workers' compensation payments and obligations from the recovery an injured worker obtains from a lawsuit against a third-party.
In some states, the workers' compensation insurer and employer may enter into the lawsuit commenced by the employee and seek to protect their rights to recover the sums. In other states, the employer is given a lien against the employee's recovery. In those states, the employer and insurer must wait until the employee has made a recovery, at which point they assert the lien and the employee must then pay back monies which duplicate workers' compensation benefits previously received or receivable.
The workers' compensation system of laws is designed to provide a straightforward method for employees to receive compensation for work-related injuries. However, workers' compensation laws vary from state to state, and have quite specific procedural requirements. To ensure that you receive proper and just compensation, it is advisable to contact an experienced workers' compensation or personal injury lawyer soon after you are injured.