In most cases, workers' compensation is the sole legal remedy when you've been hurt while on the job. However, if someone other than your employer is responsible for your injury, you may be able to file a third-party claim in addition to receiving workers' compensation benefits.
Criteria for Making a Workers' Compensation Claim
You can file a workers' compensation claim whenever you are injured during the course of your employment. This includes injuries that occur at the worksite over the course of a normal workday, as well as injuries occurring when you are traveling to and from multiple locations as part of your job or attending employer-sponsored events.
Workers' compensation is a no-fault system. You are entitled to benefits even if your own experience or inattentiveness caused your injuries, as long as your injuries weren't intentionally self-inflicted, caused by intoxication, or the result of horseplay.
Workers' compensation laws typically prevent you from suing your employer directly. However, if your employer does not have the legally required workers' compensation insurance or your injuries were caused by your employer's intentional misconduct, it might be possible to take action outside the workers' compensation system.
Types of Third-Party Claims
A third-party claim means you are taking legal action against someone other than your employer because their negligence either caused or contributed to your injury. These claims are also referred to as personal injury lawsuits.
Some examples of cases where an injured worker might have a valid third-party claim include:
- Injuries caused by defective products. If you were injured at work using defective machinery or equipment, you may have a valid claim against the manufacturer if the company knew about the danger and continued to sell the product.
- Injuries caused by toxic substances. If you develop a serious illness due to exposure to a toxic substance, you might have a claim against the manufacturer of the substance or the protective equipment that failed to work as intended.
- Car accidents. If you are driving as part of your employment and hurt in a car accident that is not your fault, you may have a claim against the at-fault driver.
- Dog bite attacks. If you are attacked by a dog while making deliveries, performing home repairs, or completing some other employment-related task, you may have a claim against the owner of the dog.
- Premises liability claims. If you slip and fall due to unsafe conditions at a property you are visiting as part of your employment, you may have a claim against the owner or tenant in charge of maintaining the premises.
Advantages of Making a Third-Party Claim
Workers' compensation makes the process of getting benefits relatively straightforward, since you don't need to prove that your employer is at fault for your injury. However, this comes with a significant tradeoff. Injured workers are only compensated for 2/3 of their lost wages and they are not allowed to seek compensation for their pain and suffering.
If you have a valid third-party claim, this allows you to be fully compensated for your lost wages as well as your pain and suffering. This would increase the size of your settlement considerably, especially if your injuries have left you permanently disabled.
Please note that the workers' compensation insurer may place a lien on any third-party settlement you receive. The lien allows the insurer to be repaid for a portion of the benefits they already provided, since your damages are no longer the exclusive responsibility of your employer.
How an Attorney Can Help
The relationship between workers' compensation and third-party claims is complex and depends on the unique circumstances of your injury. If you have questions about your eligibility for compensation, you should consult an experienced attorney as soon as possible.
Contact O'Connor Law today to schedule a free, no-obligation initial consultation to discuss how to handle your worker's compensation claim. Our offices are convenient to residents of Westchester, Nassau, Suffolk, Rockland, Putnam, and Orange counties, as well as those living in Brooklyn, Bronx, Queens, and Manhattan.