Last month, the Arkansas Supreme Court issued a written opinion in a personal injury case brought by a woman against her husband’s previous employer, alleging that her husband’s exposure to asbestos while on the job caused the cancer from which he ultimately died. In the case, Hendrix v. Alcoa, the court dismissed the plaintiff’s case because the sole remedy for her loss was through the state’s workers’ compensation program.
The Interplay Between Workers’ Compensation Claims and Personal Injury Claims
When someone is injured on the job due to the negligence of another party, there may be one or more potential claims available to the injured worker or their family. The workers’ compensation program is mandatory for many Arkansas employers and acts as a type of insurance for employers. If an employee is injured on the job, the employee can obtain workers’ compensation benefits without having to establish who was at fault for their injuries. However, workers’ compensation claims are mostly limited to medical expenses and lost wages, and these claims will not include compensation for pain and suffering.
In some situations, an injured worker’s eligibility for workers’ compensation benefits will not prevent that worker from filing a personal injury lawsuit against a negligent third party that caused the worker’s injuries. These “third-party” lawsuits are preferred for many injured workers because the potential recovery amount can be much greater, due to the availability of damages for the worker’s pain and suffering.