Sometimes an accident on the job results, at least in part, from careless behavior or misconduct by someone who is not your employer or coworker. This can allow a worker to pursue a personal injury claim against that third party. Third-party claims are not mutually exclusive with workers’ compensation claims. You probably will start receiving workers’ compensation benefits before your third-party claim resolves. Then, the workers’ compensation insurer likely would be reimbursed from any award or settlement that you receive in the third-party case.
One of the main reasons to pursue personal injury damages in addition to workers’ compensation benefits is that you can receive many forms of compensation. Benefits through workers’ compensation usually cover medical bills, vocational rehabilitation, and a percentage of your lost wages. You may be able to obtain additional benefits for injuries like scarring and disfigurement if those are applicable. By contrast, third-party personal injury claims can allow an injured worker to recover full compensation for lost income and earning capacity, in addition to pain and suffering, mental anguish, and other non-monetary losses. If the defendant acted egregiously or with intent, they may be ordered to pay punitive damages in addition to compensatory damages. Thus, the overall award in a third-party claim may be much larger than payments through workers’ compensation.
Car Accidents on the Job
If you were injured in a car accident while you were performing your job duties, you might be able to sue the driver at fault for the crash if they were not a coworker. You would need to show that you were injured because of the defendant’s unsafe driving. (A key difference between workers’ compensation and personal injury claims is that you must prove fault in a personal injury claim but not in a workers’ compensation claim.) Sometimes getting workers’ compensation benefits after a car accident can be challenging because the insurer may argue that the accident happened outside the workplace and was not work-related. This can make pursuing a personal injury claim especially useful. Read more here about car accident cases.
Defective Products in the Workplace
Another common situation in which a third-party claim may be appropriate is when a worker is injured by malfunctioning or defective equipment while performing their job. They may want to bring a products liability lawsuit against the manufacturer of the equipment or another entity in the chain of distribution. These cases usually allege a defect in the manufacturing or design of the product. Or they may arise from inadequate instructions or warnings about the risks inherent in it. Read more here about products liability cases.
Toxic Exposure in the Workplace
Some complicated personal injury claims arise from exposure to toxic substances, such as asbestos, silica, or benzene. Tracing causation from the exposure to the illness can prove challenging, especially if a long time has passed since the exposure. Often, these illnesses take years to develop, but this does not mean that you cannot prevail. You should consult an attorney to find out whether you may have a claim against the manufacturer of the substance or any party other than your employer that was responsible for your exposure to the substance. In some cases, a worker may want to file a complaint with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to report a violation of workplace safety rules. Read more here about toxic tort cases.