Who Can Be Sued if a Maryland Worker Receives Workers’ Compensation?

In Maryland, the Workers’ Compensation Act (the Act) requires employers to pay benefits to employees that suffer an accidental injury at work. The benefits are issued to injured employees regardless of whether the employer was at fault for the employee’s injury. The benefits provided through the Act generally bar subsequent civil claims against employers through a rule known as the exclusivity rule. A recent case shows how a claim may even be barred against one entity after receiving workers’ compensation benefits from a separate entity.

In that case, the plaintiff suffered an injury while he was working as a foreman removing trees. He was working along with five employees at a job at a client’s house, and at one point, a vehicle known as a bucket truck rolled backward and pinned the plaintiff between it and a dump truck. As other employees apparently attempted to remove the truck, the truck was set in motion, causing the plaintiff further injury. The plaintiff suffered serious injuries as a result of the accident and was permanently disabled.

The plaintiff received workers’ compensation benefits from the insurance carrier for Mulch-N-More, a company that provided mulching services. The plaintiff then filed a complaint in court, alleging that another entity, Mike’s Professional Tree Service (MPTS), was negligent. MPTS was a separate, affiliated entity owned by the same person. MPTS claimed that the plaintiff could not file suit against MPTS because he had already received workers’ compensation benefits, and his claim was barred under the Act.

The central issue before the court was whether the plaintiff was an employee of MPTS or whether the plaintiff was an employee of Mulch-N-More. The court found the plaintiff was an employee of MPTS. The court held that although Mulch-N-More issued the plaintiffs paychecks and benefits, MPTS had dominion and control over the plaintiff. The court noted that the plaintiff admitted he was an employee of MPTS in a deposition and the plaintiff signed training forms issued by MPTS. Additionally, other employees claimed the plaintiff was an employee of MPTS. Thus, because he was an employee of MPTS, the plaintiff’s claim was barred by the exclusivity provision of the Workers’ Compensation Act.

Filing a Claim After Receiving Workers’ Compensation Benefits

Because the Workers’ Compensation Act is generally the exclusive avenue to receive compensation after a work injury, an employer (and possibly related entities) may be protected from a lawsuit. However, there are exceptions. For example, a third party may be liable for the workers’ injury. Also, only employees can receive workers’ compensation benefits, and thus independent contractors may be able to file a claim in court.

Contact a Maryland Accident Lawyer

Injured workers should contact a Maryland workplace injury attorney to discuss their injury claim. The injury lawyers at Lebowitz & Mzhen have over 20 years of experience representing victims in Baltimore and throughout Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. Our attorneys have assisted numerous accident victims in pursuing financial compensation for their injuries. We handle all types of personal injury claims, including Maryland slip and falls, car accidents, and more. Our legal team strives to provide each client with personal attention, from the initial consultation until the conclusion of the case. Call us at 1-800-654-1949 or contact us through our website to set up a free initial consultation.

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