Iowa workers’ compensation provides benefits, including medical expenses, lost wages, temporary or permanent disability, or other covered expenses, for work-related injuries. One of the advantages of the workers’ compensation system is that it provides benefits regardless of who is at fault for a workplace injury. However, the benefits you receive from workers’ comp may not fully compensate you for significant injuries. If your injuries were caused by a faulty tool or piece of equipment in the workplace, it might be possible for you to pursue legal action against the manufacturer of that equipment.
Strict Liability Claims in Iowa for Defective Products
You may be able to bring a claim against the manufacturer or seller of a tool or piece of equipment that caused or contributed to your injury under the legal theory of “strict liability.” Strict liability doesn’t require that a manufacturer or seller did anything negligent or intentionally wrong. Under Iowa law, “one who sells any product in a defective condition unreasonably dangerous to the user or consumer or to his property is subject to liability for physical harm thereby caused to the ultimate user or consumer, or to his property, if the seller is engaged in the business of selling such a product, and it is expected to and does reach the user or consumer without substantial change in the condition in which it is sold.”
An “unreasonably dangerous” “defective condition” can be caused by a flaw in the manufacturing process (e.g., a product that is safe as designed but that was constructed incorrectly or with an inherent flaw). If the tool that you were using was defective in this way, Iowa law is clear that a manufacturer and seller can be held liable even if they acted reasonably in selling or distributing the tool.
For example, you are injured at work when a part flies off the drill press you are operating and strikes you in the forehead. An investigation determines that the cause of the malfunction was a naturally-occurring weakness in the metal that makes up one of the machine components. This abnormality was present when the press was purchased. You would likely be able to file a lawsuit based on strict liability against the manufacturer and/or seller of the tool.
If a tool or piece of equipment is inherently dangerous as designed (rather than because a flaw in the manufacturing process) it may still be possible to pursue a claim against the manufacturer or seller of the tool, but the law is much more complicated, and recovery will depend on the specific facts of your case. If you believe your injury was caused by an inherently dangerous item or hazardous condition in the workplace, an experienced personal injury attorney can help evaluate your claims and determine whether you may be able to recover.
How Liability Claims Can Affect Workers’ Compensation Settlements
If you are successful in a claim or lawsuit against a responsible third party, like a manufacturer or seller, you may have to pay back any workers’ compensation benefits you receive from your employer’s insurer or that they have paid out on your behalf. If you recover amounts above and beyond your workers’ compensation benefits in such a lawsuit, you are entitled to keep them. In the case of serious and significant workplace injuries caused by faulty equipment, the recovery in a products liability action can be significant. You may be able to pursue recovery for economic damages not reimbursed by workers’ compensation, such as reimbursement for lost or damaged personal property, as well as non-economic damages, like compensation for pain and suffering, and punitive damages to “punish” the defendant for particularly outrageous or negligent conduct.
The skilled attorneys at the Platt Law Firm will help you through the often confusing workers’ compensation system and help you preserve your rights to all the benefits you deserve. Contact us today for a free, no-obligation consultation.