If you were injured in a motor vehicle accident while at work, you may be barred from bringing a lawsuit to claim compensation for your injuries. If you fall into this category, it is important that you understand your rights, and the rules that apply to you.
The general rule comes from section 10 of the Workers Compensation Act. That section states that a “worker”, who is injured in the course of their employment, cannot bring a lawsuit for injuries caused by another “worker ” acting in the course of their employment. In short, if you were in an accident while at work, you may be barred from suing the other driver if they were at work.
While this seems like a simple rule, there can often arise disagreements as to whether the injured party or the defendant were in fact “workers” as that term is used in the legislation. For example, some taxi drivers may be considered to be workers, while other taxi drivers may not, depending on their business arrangements. It is not often immediately clear whether a party is an employee, self employed, or an independent contractor. The status of the parties can be determined by an application to the Workers Compensation Appeal Tribunal.
If a worker is injured in an accident that was not caused by another worker, they can make an election as to whether they wish to pursue a claim with ICBC or WorkSafe. In some cases, it may be advantageous to pursue WorkSafe benefits instead of bringing a lawsuit – for example, if the accident was mostly or totally your fault, your WorkSafe benefits won’t be deducted based on your degree of fault as they will in a lawsuit, as proving liability is not a requirement to obtaining WorkSafe benefits. Another significant difference between a WorkSafe claim and a personal injury lawsuit is that in a lawsuit, you can claim for “pain and suffering” damages, also known as “non-pecuniary” damages – with WorkSafe, you cannot. This can be a difference of tens of thousands of dollars.
Because this is a complex area of the law, it is important to seek legal advice before acting on your own.
Image credit: Dave Newman, https://www.flickr.com/photos/groovysoup/