Suing A Third Party While Claiming Workers' Compensation Benefits
Most people generally understand that they cannot sue their employer for an occupational or workplace injury. If your employer has workers compensation insurance, then that fund will cover your medical and disability bills. However, if there's a third party involved in your accident, you have every right to pursue a personal injury claim against them.
Understanding Third Party Claims
Third party claims exist in most forms of tort law. It's when you sue a third party along with a main party for negligence. When workers' compensation becomes involved, things work a little differently.
If your injury occurs at the job or while doing your job elsewhere, then you are entitled to workers' compensation benefits. If your injury occurs because of another's negligence, then the same rules apply as far as your job is concerned. The only difference is the negligence of the third party has opened them up to litigation.
For example, imagine you're walking through the parking lot of your workplace, and somebody comes speeding by and clips you. You will most likely spin, fall, and suffer some kind of injury. Your employer's workers' compensation insurance will cover your medical expenses and rehabilitation. It will also cover you for missed work.
What it won't cover is pain and suffering. You can seek damages for pain and suffering from the insurance company of the vehicle owner. You can also seek damages for the things your workers' compensation is already paying for as well.
The Caveat of Third Party Lawsuits
This third party claim will work much as any other personal injury lawsuit.
- You will negotiate with the insurance company
- There will be a fact-finding and discovery process
- You will either settle or eventually go to trial
But when it's all done, if you do receive damages for your third party claim, you will have to pay back the workers' compensation benefits you received. You don't always have to pay it back in its entirety, and you only pay if you receive enough from your third party claim to cover it.
What you owe falls under the title of a "workers' compensation lien" which is a form of subrogation. Sometimes, the worker's compensation insurer will also pay for some of the legal fees of the ongoing third party case. The lien isn't always the same, and it's also negotiable. But odds are that you will have to pay something back to the workers' compensation insurer.
However, remember that workers' compensation only paid for medical expenses and possibly some lost wages. If your settlement gives you that amount plus pain and suffering, then you get to keep everything outside of what you owe back.
Speak to a Workers' Compensation Attorney
Third party claims vary from place to place. Consider the laws governing personal injury cases vary with the location and situation. Also consider the different workers' comp insurers operate under different rules and regulations in different places.
That means it's important that you have the help of someone who knows how to navigate both these institutions to your best benefit. If you want to claim your workers' compensation benefits and also pursue a third party claim, then you should start by speaking to a qualified attorney.