Can I Sue My Employer Instead of Filing for Workers’ Comp in Virginia?

Can I Sue My Employer Instead of Filing for Workers’ Comp in Virginia?

Can I Sue My Employer Instead of Filing for Workers’ Comp in Virginia?

In the state of Virginia, workers who have suffered an injury while on the job are generally protected by the workers’ compensation system. This system provides certain benefits, such as medical treatment, wage replacement, and disability benefits, to eligible employees who have been hurt at work. However, in some cases, you may wonder if you have the option to sue your employer instead of filing for workers’ compensation. While every situation is unique, it is essential to understand the laws and regulations surrounding workers’ compensation and employer liability in Virginia.

The Exclusive Remedy: Workers’ Compensation

Under Virginia law, workers’ compensation is considered the exclusive remedy for employees who sustain work-related injuries or occupational diseases. This means that, in most cases, employees cannot sue their employers for damages outside of the workers’ compensation system. The exclusive remedy provision ensures that workers receive timely benefits without the need for protracted litigation and creates a level of certainty for employers.

The Virginia Workers’ Compensation Act (VWCA), specifically Section 65.2-307, specifies that the rights and remedies granted to employees under the workers’ compensation system are their sole and exclusive recourse against their employers. As such, filing a workers’ compensation claim is typically the only legal avenue available to employees seeking compensation for their workplace injuries.

Exceptions to the Exclusive Remedy Rule

While workers’ compensation is generally the primary method of seeking compensation for work-related injuries, there are a few exceptions that permit employees to sue their employers under certain circumstances. These exceptions include:

  1. Intentional harm: If an employer intentionally caused the employee’s injury or exhibited a deliberate intent to harm, the injured worker may have the ability to pursue a civil lawsuit against the employer. Proving intentional harm can be challenging, as it requires showing that the employer had a specific intent to harm the employee.
  2. Third-party liability: If a third party who is not the employer or a coworker caused the employee’s injury, the injured worker may be able to file a personal injury claim against that third party. For example, if an employee gets injured in a car accident caused by someone not affiliated with their employer, they may have grounds to sue the responsible party.
  3. Contractual waiver: In certain situations, employees may have signed a contract or agreement with their employer that waives their rights to workers’ compensation benefits. Such waivers should be carefully analyzed and evaluated by an experienced workers’ compensation attorney, as they may provide alternative avenues for seeking damages.

Does an Exception Apply? Speak with an Attorney

Given the complexities surrounding workers’ compensation laws and the exceptions to the exclusive remedy rule, it is crucial to seek advice from an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer in Roanoke if you believe you have a potential claim against your employer. They can evaluate the specific facts of your case and determine the most appropriate course of action.

If you decide to pursue a lawsuit against your employer, your attorney will guide you through the legal process, gathering evidence, and building a strong case on your behalf. They will work to prove intentional harm, third-party liability, or explore any other potential avenues to achieve the compensation you deserve.

Remember, pursuing a civil lawsuit against your employer is a consequential step that requires extensive legal knowledge and expertise. The assistance of a skilled attorney is invaluable in understanding the applicable laws, navigating the complexities of the legal system, and advocating for your rights and interests.


While workers’ compensation is typically the exclusive remedy for workplace injuries in Virginia, there are exceptions that allow employees to sue their employers under certain circumstances. These exceptions include intentional harm, third-party liability, and contractual waivers. However, these exceptions have specific requirements and demand a thorough analysis of the facts surrounding your case.

If you believe you may have a claim against your employer or have questions regarding workers’ compensation laws in Virginia, it is highly recommended that you consult with an experienced workers’ compensation attorney. Contact our firm for a free consultation by calling: 540-523-1633.