Despite numerous improvements in technology, safety precautions, and the work site inspection process, workplace accidents in this country continue to occur at a high rate. The U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that in 2017 there were 2.8 million non-fatal and over five thousand fatal workplace injuries in the United States.
Many employees in the Maryland and D.C. area are fortunate enough to have employers who provide workers’ compensation insurance which will cover a portion of wages lost in the event of injury or administer death benefits in the case of fatality.
However, there is one drawback for workers in Maryland whose employer provides workers’ compensation insurance – the “exclusive remedy” law. The “exclusive remedy” law basically states that you cannot sue your “statutory employer” after a workplace accident, even if that employer was negligent. See Md. Labor and Employment Code Section § 9-509. The “exclusive remedy” is part of the grand bargain employers and insurance carriers make, where they agree to compensate injured workers regardless of who was at fault, and in return workers agree not to bring suit in cases of negligence.
Does the Exclusive Remedy Apply in the Case of a Fatality?
Unfortunately, yes. Under Maryland law, workers’ compensation benefits are also available to the “dependents” of a covered employee, which include spouses and children. Since they are eligible for the same or similar class of benefits that would be available to a living injured worker, the exclusive remedy applies to bar any suit for negligence. In Chavez v. Capitol View, LLC, an unpublished decision that came out last year, the Court of Special Appeals held that the exclusive remedy applies in death cases even where the worker did not leave behind any dependents, because the worker’s surviving parents could at least obtain benefits in the form of reimbursement for funeral expenses.
What is a Statutory Employer?
The best way to get around the “exclusive remedy” for injured workers who are also entitled to workers’ compensation benefits is to argue that the entity responsible for the workplace accident is not a “statutory employer” and therefore can be sued in tort. If your employer does not provider workers’ compensation benefits, then they of course open themselves up to being sued for negligence.
Even if your employer does provide workers’ compensation benefits, if they are a subsidiary of a parent company, the parent company or the premises owner of the work site can be sued provided they do not exercise a sufficient degree of control over the worker. See Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co. Inc. v. Imbraguglio, 345 Md. 573, 697 A.2d 885 (1997).
In the case of employees of subcontractors who are, for example, injured on construction sites, avoiding the “exclusive remedy” against the principal contractor is a bit more complicated. It depends on whether the principal contractor would be liable to pay workers’ compensation benefits to the sub contractor’s employee under Md. Labor and Employment Code Section § 9-508. The central question is whether the principal contractor uses a subcontractor to undertake a task that is part of the principal contractor’s ordinary business. If the answer is yes, then the principal contractor is a statutory employer of the subcontractor’s employees.
Determining whether you can bring a suit for negligence arising out of a workplace accident is a complicated matter, and requires the help of an experienced Maryland personal injury attorney to determine your rights. The lawyers at Cardaro & Peek can help.
Contact The Law Offices of Cardaro & Peek, LLC Today
Do you believe that you or your loved one has suffered as a result of medical malpractice or medical neglect? You need to talk to an experienced team of local lawyers today.
The lawyers at Cardaro & Peek, LLC have the experience and resources necessary to investigate and litigate all types of personal injury claims throughout Maryland and Washington D.C. Cardaro & Peek, LLC has medical personnel on staff and has access to nationally recognized, board-certified experts, including physicians to assist in the investigation, analysis, and prosecution of all types of personal injury and negligence claims. If you or a loved one have experienced malpractice, give us a call at 410-752-6166. Please visit our website www.cardarolaw.com and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn for more information.