A court decision based on a mixture of fact and law has New York courts divided this month after hearing the case of a New York man currently seeking compensation in the form of a personal injury lawsuit.
The issue began in 2003 when a sheet of plywood fell on the man, injuring his head, neck and back. Post traumatic-stress disorder and depression soon followed the accident, preventing him from returning to work. Because of these injuries, the man was awarded workers' compensation benefits.
To hold the construction site manager and the subcontractor responsible for the unsafe working conditions, the man's wife and sister-in-law filed a personal injury lawsuit in 2004. It was because of this lawsuit that the New York courts are currently divided.
When the case finally went to court in 2009, the man's former employer, Seven Thirty One Limited Partnership, argued that the personal injury lawsuit sought compensation for medical expenses and lost income that occurred after a 2006 decision in which an administrative law judge determined that the man was no longer disabled. The court agreed though this decision would become a source of contention in 2011 when the Appellate Division, First Department argued that the findings were based on a mixture of fact and law.
Although a decision this month made by the Court of Appeals allows the man to still seek compensation after the 2006 ruling, it is not clear whether his workers' compensation benefits will be affected in anyway.
Despite a person's incredible want to hold an employer responsible for injuries received on the job through the use of a personal injury lawsuit, as the example above shows, sometimes this can cause more problems than it's worth. That's not to say that a worker should not seek compensation for their injuries however. Filing for workers' compensation benefits is sometimes all the effort a worker needs to take because in a majority of cases, OSHA will take care of future litigation when it comes to negligence.
Source: Thomson Reuters News & Insight, "Workers' compensation ruling binding in personal injury case," Daniel Wiessner, Feb. 14, 2013