When you are hurt at work, you are thrown into a difficult position. Depending on the severity of your injury, you may be out of work for weeks or months. Or, you may be forced to come to terms with a disability that requires you to find new work or leaves you unable to find or maintain employment. Through all of this, you have workers’ compensation insurance to make sure you receive proper medical care and that you do not lose all of your wages. Unfortunately, workers’ comp rarely covers all of the losses, expenses, and pain you might experience after a work-related injury. In many circumstances, that is something you have to deal with. However, in other cases, you may have the right to bring a third-party claim, which could provide you with additional much-needed compensation.
When someone from outside of your workplace caused you harm while you were on the job, you may be able to hold that person responsible through a third-party liability claim. Under workers’ compensation, you cannot sue your employer. However, you can sue a negligent third party who does not work for your employer.
What is a Third-Party Claim in Workers’ Compensation?
At Lugar Injury Law, we are often asked by prospective clients, ?what is a third-party claim?? To begin, it is important to understand what workers’ comp is before diving into the specifics of third-party claims. When you are injured while working, you can typically file a workers’ compensation claim. This claim is made against your employer?s workers’ compensation insurance policy. It covers your medical expenses and a portion of your lost wages for either a period of time or forever, depending on the circumstances. A workers’ comp claim is not a lawsuit, and when you receive workers’ compensation benefits, you are not entitled to file a lawsuit against your employer.
A third-party claim is an insurance claim or lawsuit filed against a party that is not your employer or someone who works for the same business. The third party is someone from outside of your job. It may be an employee of another business that was on the same worksite. Or, it may have been someone not involved with your work who came into your place of employment.
When someone from outside of your employer is the reason you suffered a work-related injury, you may be able to hold them liable through a third-party claim. You can file a lawsuit against that individual, or the employer of the at-fault individual, and seek to prove that their negligence, recklessness, or intentional misconduct is the cause of your injuries.
If you are unsure of whether or not you have can file a lawsuit in addition to your workers’ compensation claim, call Lugar Injury Law right away.
Workers’ Comp Claims vs. Third-Party Claims
For those who have never gone through the workers’ compensation process before, the differences between workers’ compensation and third-party personal injury claims may be unclear. A workers’ compensation claim meets these criteria:
- Fault: You do not have to prove fault to claim work injury compensation, nor do you have to demonstrate that you did not cause the accident. The company?s workers’ compensation insurance pays for the claim without admitting fault or liability.
- Payment: Payment comes from the workers’ compensation insurance company. If the company does not have insurance, they may pay directly.
- Legal process: The workers’ compensation process does not go through the legal system. It is handled by the insurance company. An injury at work claim goes to court if the insurance company wrongfully denies the claim or the claim is fraudulent.
- What you can recover: Workers’ compensation pays for medical expenses that come from work-related injuries, 66.66% of your wages based on your income during the 52 weeks prior to the injury, and death benefits.
Third Party Work Injury Claims
In comparison, third-party personal injury claims handled by work injury attorneys have the following traits:
- Fault: People who are injured at work must prove the liability of a third party to recover compensation from them. The burden of proof is fairly extensive, requiring proof of duty, a breach of duty, causation, and damages.
- Payment: If the claim is successful, the liable party?s property insurance or liability insurance may pay damages. Otherwise, they could be responsible for covering damages out-of-pocket.
- Legal process: In most situations, the third-party claim follows the same process as a personal injury claim.
A settlement may be negotiated before the case goes to court; however, if the amount is high, the company may refuse to settle and take their chances in the courtroom. Your employer?s workers’ compensation insurance might have a subrogation interest in your claim, so they might work alongside your workplace injury attorney to prove the third party?s liability.
- What you can recover: If a third party is responsible for your accident at work, compensation options vary widely. While workers’ compensation claims are limited to medical expenses and partial wages, a third-party claim allowed someone who is injured at work to pursue compensation for all lost wages, overtime, future lost wages, pain and suffering, and other related expenses.
Note that these claims are not exclusive of each other. If you are hurt at work, lawyers can help you pursue both workers’ compensation and third-party personal injury compensation.
When are Third-Party Claims Appropriate?
There are many situations in which a third-party claim could help significantly increase the amount of compensation you receive. While the process of filing a third-party claim can be more complex in process, it is just as advantageous, if not more so to pursue due to the ability to fully recover and another avenue for compensation.
Consider these examples of third-party claims:
- While driving from their office to a client appointment, an employee is injured in a car accident caused by another driver. They can collect workers’ compensation because they were injured at work, but they can also file a third-party claim against the liable driver to cover the rest of their expenses.
- An employer hires an outside janitorial company to clean the workplace every day. They fail to put up a ?Wet Floor? sign after mopping, and an employee falls and fractures their leg. In addition to collecting workers’ compensation, the worker can retain a workplace injury law firm to sue the janitorial company.
- A personal care worker who visits multiple patients in their homes to administer medications, prepare meals, and help with personal care visits a patient living in an apartment building. The worker slips on an ice-covered step on their way out and breaks multiple bones. They may be able to get compensation for their long absence from work and extensive medical expenses by filing a suit against the property management company for failing to maintain the stairs and walkways.
Liens on Your Third-Party or Workers Comp Claim
Should you settle one of the two claims with respect to your injury it is completely within the ability of the defendant to the settled case to exercise a lien on your still consisting claim. A lien is an amount that they provide notice to you or your counsel informing you of their viable legal interest in recovering what they paid to you through settlement. Liens can be negotiated and should be. At times and through good negotiating, a party will agree to a waiver of their lien. This can dramatically assist with the amount you recover through the pursuit of your claims. This is an imperative aspect of these types of cases that must be kept in mind.
Who Can be Held Liable in Third-Party Claims?
Anyone from outside of your employer may be held responsible for your injuries as long as their careless, reckless, or intentional misconduct caused you harm. Typically, current co-workers, supervisors, and managers do not count as third parties.
The third party is an individual who is not employed by the same company as you. It may be another person who works in the same building, a random driver, a previous co-worker who was fired or laid off, or a random person with criminal intent. For example, if you are a construction worker who was struck by a negligent driver while working near the side of a road, that negligent driver is a third party. Or, if a disgruntled ex-employee comes back to your office and commits a violent act, that ex-employee is a third party.
A third party can also be the employer of the negligent individual. This can happen on construction sites where employees for different businesses are working at the same time. If the person responsible for the workplace accident and your injuries were also working at the time, then you may be able to hold their employer liable for your injuries.
Additionally, the third-party responsible for your injuries may be a company. For instance, if you are a construction worker who was hurt by a defective piece of equipment, you may have a third-party claim against the equipment manufacturer.
How to Sue a Third Party
If you are interested in suing a third party for a work-related injury, we highly recommend calling our workers’ compensation lawyers at Lugar Injury Law. There are many steps you need to take before filing a lawsuit.
The first step is to have your attorney conduct an independent investigation. Through this process, your lawyer will gather evidence of the accident and analyze it to determine who is at fault. This is necessary to determine whether you have a valid third-party claim or not.
If you have a valid claim, then the next step is to determine when and where you must file a lawsuit. Your lawyer will review the statute of limitations for personal injuries. If you are within the deadline to file a lawsuit, your lawyer will determine which court has jurisdiction. You may be able to file a lawsuit where you live, where you were hurt, or where the other individual lives or business is located.
Your lawyer will draft and file the complaint with the proper court and ensure the at-fault party is served the proper documents. At Lugar Injury Law, we know the ins and outs of the Roanoke court system. Our team will adhere to all local court rules and procedures to ensure your case proceeds as efficiently as possible.
We will represent you at all court hearings, and when necessary, at trial. We will always be trial-ready, even if we concentrate on negotiating a third-party settlement. If the at-fault party is insured, then they may be defended by their insurance company. We may be able to negotiate a fair settlement for your work-related injuries with the insurer.
Third-Party Claim Compensation
When you file a lawsuit against a third party who is responsible for your work-related injuries, you can seek compensation for your:
- Medical Expenses
- Lost Wages
- Pain and Suffering
- Emotional Distress
- Scarring and Disfigurement
- Reduced Earning Potential
- Reduced Quality of Life
Let Our Roanoke Third-Party Claims Lawyers Help You
When you are injured at work and you believe someone from outside of your employer is responsible, contact an experienced workers’ compensation and third-party claim lawyer from Lugar Injury Law as soon as possible. If you have a valid third-party claim, you should address it as soon as possible.