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A Pennsylvania construction worker was injured when the trench in which he was working collapsed while he was still inside it. The crew with whom he was working was installing a pipe which was being run into a school. The worker suffered a fractured leg and was listed in critical condition.

An OSHA investigation was underway to determine the cause of the collapse and whether citations will be issued.

Under Illinois law, when a worker is injured on the job, he potentially has two separate cases: a worker’s compensation case and a liability laswsuit.

Worker’s compensation is a no-fault system: if the worker is injured on the job, he is entitled to the benefits available under the Worker’s Compensation Act. These include payment of two-thirds of his average weekly wage while he is off work, payment of his medical expenses, and a lump sum for permanency. The trade-off for being eligible to receive worjker’s compensation benefits is that the injured worker cannot file a liability lawsuit against his employer or a co-worker, even if the employer or co-worker was grossly negligent in causing the injury.

A liability lawsuit requires proof of fault on the part of someone else besides the injured worker, his employer, or his co-employee. In general, the potential damages in a liability lawsuit are larger than the benefits that can be received from worker’s compensation, but fault must be proven.

Injured workers are not required to choose one or the other — they can pursue both a worker’s compensation case and a liability lawsuit. However, the interplay between the worker’s compensation case and the liability lawsuit is verycomplex.

Anyone who sustains a significant on-the-job injury where there is reason to believe that someone other than their emplioyer or co-employee was at fault should be careful to promptly hire a well-qualified attorney.

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