The short answer is no, except in very rare circumstances.
The New Mexico Workers’ Compensation Act is a no fault system, designed to benefit both employees and employers. The primary benefit to this no fault system for the injured worker is that her or she does not have to prove negligence to receive compensation, as would be required in a typical personal injury claim. Generally, a worker injured in the course and scope of employment is entitled to benefits, regardless of whether the employer or the worker, or even another employee was negligent. Simply put, for the most part negligence is irrelevant in worker’s compensation.
The no fault system further provides a benefit to the worker because he or she does not have to prove up negligence. This allows for a more timely award of benefits to the worker.
The New Mexico Workers’ Compensation Act provides a very important benefit to the employer as well—that is, the employer can not be sued outside of workers’ compensation. In other words, the law does not require the worker to prove negligence, but as a tradeoff, it prohibits the workers from suing the employer outside of worker’s compensation.
Thus, for 99% of workers that means the worker cannot sue his or her employer, not even if your employer is negligent, or even grossly negligent.
I did mention there are rare situations in which a worker can sue an employer. This is known as a “Delgado Claim” named after the New Mexico case which first provided this right to workers. Without getting into the specifics of the case, and a complex analysis, I can simplify it with a simple example of what is required.
Assume there is a fire at work, and your employer demands that you rush into the burning fire or you will be fired. You refuse citing the obvious risks, and your employer again demands that you rush into the burning fire risking your life. You reluctantly agree, and are injured in doing so.
Okay, this is a bit of an exaggeration, but not much! While not exactly the standard for bringing a Delgado claim, this provides a helpful example as to the extremely high burden an injured worker must overcome to sue his or her employer. Another way of looking at it is that it must almost be intentional.
If you believe you have a situation that may rise to this level, please contact me and I will be happy to discuss your situation in more detail.
But as a general rule, assume you can’t sue your employer.
A couple quick side notes that must be mentioned while we are on this topic…you can potentially bring a claim outside of worker’s compensation if someone other than your employer or fellow employee caused your injury. The most common examples of this are negligent third party contractors or negligent drivers injuring you in a car accident while you are in the course and scope of employment. In this situation, you can potentially bring a worker’s compensation claim and a personal injury claim.
This is obviously meant to be a very quick overview of this area of the law, and is not intended to be a complete explanation. I will be happy to discuss the facts of your case if you need further information.