When a worker is injured on the job, he or she can bring a workers’ compensation claim. Workers’ compensation benefits are awarded without the need to prove that your employer was at fault. However, in some cases, the injured worker can also bring a third-party claim. “Third-party” refers to an individual or company who is not your employer. A claim can be pursued against a third party who caused you to become injured.
Third-party liability may arise when an individual or entity that is separate from the employer causes the workplace accident. Usually, it is not available against an employee’s supervisor or coworker. Instead, third-party liability may arise out of other common situations, such as drivers who cause car accidents that injure a worker while on the job, the actions or omissions by another company or that company’s employees and manufacturing or design defects.
For example, if a worker is on the road for work, and a drunk truck driver crashes into him, the worker can recover workers’ compensation benefits, but he can also make a claim or file a lawsuit against the truck driver and the trucking company. Most workers’ compensation payments are minimal, and a worker may not be able to recover enough compensation to fully cover his or her medical expenses and lost income through workers’ compensation alone. Additionally, workers’ compensation does not cover pain and suffering, mental anguish, or punitive damages. In a third-party claim, the worker would be able to seek damages which are more than those available to the worker who only makes a workers’ compensation claim.
To have a successful third-party claim it is necessary to prove that the third party is at fault or negligent for your injury. To prove the third party’s negligence, the injured worker will need to prove duty, breach of duty, causation, and damages. However, if the worker makes the claim against a product manufacturer, it may be possible to raise a strict liability claim in which the product manufacturer can be held liable just by proving that there was a defect and that it caused the worker’s harm.
When an injured worker claims that a third party negligently caused his or her injury, the company’s insurance carrier may have a subrogation interest in the claim. Subrogation allows for the company to recover the money which they paid out for medical treatment and lost wages. Each state has its own rules regarding subrogation and an employer’s right or a carrier’s right to recover benefits that were paid to the employee.
The subrogation interest that can be recovered is usually limited to the amount of workers’ compensation benefits that were paid to the employee. In most cases, if the third-party recovery is for an amount greater than the subrogation interest, the insurance carrier can get reimbursed and the remainder is paid to the injured employee.