The Workers' Compensation Act provides that the employer and any fellow employee of the injured worker are absolutely protected from suit by the injured employee with one exception. In the event that the injury is at the hand of a fellow employee who has caused an intentional injury to a worker, then the fellow employee (but not the employer) might no longer be immune from suit. Otherwise, as long as the injury arises from the work relationship, workers' compensation benefits are the only recourse of an injured employee against his employer or fellow employee. In a great number of situations, however, the victim has been injured not by a fellow employee or his or her employer, but by a "third party." In this circumstance, the victim is entitled both to compensation benefits and to bring a suit for "pain and suffering" against the negligent third party.
Perhaps the most frequent occasion where the Workers' Compensation Act does not prevent a negligence action arising is when an employee is injured in a car accident during work. Assuming the other driver was negligent, a lawsuit may be brought as long as the other driver was not in the hire of the same employer. An employee whose work takes him or her off the premise of the employer onto the premise of others is exposed to the possibility of defective conditions of those premises, and these defects that might serve as a basis for negligence claims.
These are just a few examples of situations where the Workers' Compensation Act does not prevent an act for pain and suffering. You should not simply assume that suit is prohibited. If you would like to discuss the possibility of a third party claim arising from your work injury, please feel free to call the law office of Fenner and Boles (215) 259-5879 for a free consultation.