I hit my head at work, can I sue?

by Frank
(New York, NY, USA)

I live in New York City and worked at an art craft store. I was told by a manager to go to the basement and get some supplies. The basement ceiling is very low, about 5 feet and a few inches, I am 5'8" tall. As I was getting supplies I banged my head against a light fixture.

I started to bleed a lot so I went to the emergency room and received 4 staples, and the head scan revealed I had some hemorrhage. Other co-workers banged their head before but none as severe as me. The store managers were aware of this problem but never did anything about it. What are my rights? Can I sue?

Visitor Question:
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ANSWER for "I hit my head at work, can I sue?":

Frank (New York, NY):

Anyone can sue anyone else for anything. The question is, does their case have any merit, or enough merit to prevail in court? In addition, even if you have a meritorious case you must consider if going through the expense and stress of a lawsuit is something you are prepared to do.

In your case it appears you were aware other employees had previously hit their heads on the ceiling or the light fixture, or possibly both.

There is a legal theory called “Assumption of Risk”. This means if a person knew, or should have known, a risk exists, and knowing the risk exists, exposes themselves to the risk, the courts often place the burden on the person who, knowing the risk existed, placed themselves in harm's way, thereby assuming the risk. In these cases the Courts have often ruled the responsibility for the injury is on the person who was injured.

Along with the assumption of risk the courts will consider the reasonableness of the circumstances of the injury.

If let’s say you were working at the craft store and the owner had a coffee machine which sometimes leaked hot coffee which burned employees, and the owner, knowing this, failed to replace or repair the machine, and a new employee was seriously burned, then it can be said there existed a risk, and the burned employee did not assume the risk. In this the burden and responsibility to pay for the injuries is clearly on the employer.

In your case it would have been virtually impossible for your employer to have repaired or replaced the risk, as the building’s short ceiling could not be replaced or repaired. Taken with your prior knowledge of the risk it is likely you would not prevail in Court.

The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from an attorney licensed in your state. Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here, or call (888) 647-2490.

Best of luck,

Judge Calisi

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