Third-Party Liability in Workers’ Compensation Cases: When to Pursue Additional Claims

No matter how careful you are at work, accidents can happen. It only takes one fall from a ladder or slip on a dirty floor to leave you with serious injuries and a long recovery process.

If a third party did something to cause your injuries, you can usually sue them for damages. Learn how third-party liability in workers’ compensation cases works below.

Can You Sue Your Employer for Workplace Accidents in California?

California is a no-fault state regarding workplace accidents. This means injured workers cannot sue their employer if they offer workers’ compensation benefits. 

But on the bright side, “no-fault” also applies to employees. It doesn’t matter who caused your injuries on the job. The only thing that matters is that your accident happened at work.

If you believe that a third party holds some responsibility for your injuries, though, it’s possible to sue and recover damages from them in court.

Why File a Claim Against a Third Party?

Workers’ compensation pays handsomely for employees injured on the job. Benefits cover your medical expenses, job retraining costs, and a percentage of your wages if you’re disabled and can’t work.

Workers’ comp also pays a lifetime pension for severely disabled employees. If your loved one died due to a workplace accident, workers’ comp provides benefits for the deceased’s dependents.

With benefits like these, why would you want to file a claim against a third party? One reason is that workers’ comp doesn’t cover pain and suffering or emotional distress. If you feel depressed because your injuries stop you from working, for instance, you may believe you have a right to compensation for your suffering.

A judge may also order punitive damages to punish someone who acted in an outrageous or severely negligent manner. Such damages can exceed your workers’ comp benefits by thousands of dollars or more.

Third-Party Liability for Workplace Injuries

Who does the law consider a third party in a workplace accident? Essentially, a third party is anyone who is not your employer. Let’s go over some common third-party accident liability cases in more detail.

Construction Accidents

On any construction project, you’ll likely find teams of contractors, sub-contractors, and workers from different companies. These people do not directly employ you, so it’s possible to sue one of them if you think they contributed to your accident.

For example, say that a contractor provided you with equipment that they failed to maintain. The equipment burst into flames while you were using it, resulting in severe burns and scarring. You could hold the contractor responsible for negligence.

Property Owner Liability

Homeowners and other property owners have a duty to keep their property hazard-free. They must remove and correct tripping hazards such as raised tree limbs and broken stairs.

If you visited a home to do your job and hurt yourself on the property, you could file a claim against the homeowner for your injuries.

Car Accidents

People who drive vehicles for their job put themselves at risk of an accident every time they sit behind the wheel. Delivery drivers, mail carriers, garbage truck drivers, and other commercial vehicle drivers can experience an accident at any time.

If another driver hits you while you’re driving for work, it’s possible to hold them liable in a lawsuit.

Defective Products

Imagine that you work in construction, and a tool you use explodes or catches on fire. Or maybe a ladder gives out from under you because the manufacturer didn’t properly attach the steps to the frame.

Who’s to blame in this situation? If your co-worker should have maintained the tool and it broke because they didn’t do their job, you could hold them liable. But if the tool failed because of a manufacturing flaw, you could go after the manufacturer in a product liability lawsuit.

Proving Negligence in a Personal Injury Lawsuit

Proving negligence in a workplace accident can be a tricky endeavor. First, you need to know who holds the blame for your injuries. Was it your employer or a third party? Remember, you can’t sue your employer even if their negligence led to your injuries.

To prove third-party liability in workers’ compensation cases, you’ll need to show that the third party owed you a duty of care. For instance, property owners have a duty to keep their property free of hazards so visitors don’t hurt themselves. The law says that drivers have a duty to pay attention to the road and obey traffic laws.

Next, you and your lawyer must prove that the third party breached their duty. For instance, if you tripped over a tree branch on someone’s property, the property owner breached their duty by not keeping the yard hazard-free.

Third, you will need to prove that the breach of duty directly caused your injuries.

Lastly, you must show the damages that the breach of duty caused you. Damages could include physical injuries, medical bills, lost wages, and destroyed personal belongings.

Can You Pursue Workers’ Comp and a Third-Party Claim at the Same Time?

Filing a workers’ compensation claim doesn’t stop you from suing a third party for damages. You can pursue both at the same time, but it’s advisable to file for workers’ comp first. This way, workers’ comp will pay for your bills and lost wages to support you during the litigation process.

But it’s important to know that if you win your lawsuit, the workers’ comp benefits provider can demand reimbursement of benefits they’ve paid you. And if you file a third-party lawsuit while your workers’ comp claim is still open, the carrier may claim credit for the cost of your future treatment.

Khalil Law Group Can Help with Your Third-Party Negligence Case

If you believe that a third party’s negligence caused your injuries, you may be able to recover more compensation to supplement your workers’ comp benefits. To learn more about third-party liability in workers’ compensation cases, call Khalil Law Group at (714) 617-7870 today.

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