As a general rule, when you are hurt on the job, your sole avenue of recourse for injuries will be through a workers’ compensation claim. What most people don’t know, though, is that workers’ compensation is designed only to address the negligence of your employer or a co-worker. If you are hurt because of the carelessness or negligence of an unrelated third party, you can still sue that third party in court for any damages you incurred.
The workers’ compensation laws were enacted as a compromise between workers and employers. For workers, the laws provide a faster way of actually receiving benefits, provided your claim is approved. Instead of filing a lawsuit and going through the lengthy process of motions, discovery of evidence, and trial, you can file an application for benefits and start receiving compensation within weeks. It’s not unusual, if your claim is straightforward, to start receiving benefits without any gap in pay.
For employers, the workers’ compensation laws provide assurance that they won’t risk exorbitant or unreasonable jury verdicts that could jeopardize their existence. Instead, the workers’ compensation statutes provide for fixed payments based on type of injury and degree of loss.
As a part of the compromise, employers agree to fund workers’ compensation payments, either through insurance or through what is known as “self-funding,” where the employers make payments out of their own revenues and resources. Workers agree that their sole remedy for any negligence by the employer or a co-worker will be through a workers’ compensation claim.
There are many instances, though, where workers suffer injury because of the carelessness or negligence of an unrelated third party:
- A worker may be injured because for the breakdown, malfunction, negligent design or manufacture of tools, equipment, machinery or other items. If those items were designed or manufactured by someone other than the employer, the worker may file a separate claim in court.
- A worker may be injured in a motor vehicle accident involving an unrelated third party, either on the job site or while traveling on behalf of the employer.
- A worker may be hurt because of the negligence of a third party—a subcontractor may be careless or the worker may be injured by the totally unrelated actions of a third party.
If a workplace injury was caused in part or in whole by the actions of a third party, the injured worker is not limited to the recover allowed by workers’ compensation laws, but may file a lawsuit in court seeking appropriate damages.
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At Barnard, Mezzanotte, Pinnie, Seelaus & Kraft LLP, we have provided thorough and effective legal counsel to clients throughout Delaware County in Pennsylvania since 1980. We offer a free initial consultation. To schedule an appointment, call us at 610-565-4055 or 302-594-4535 or contact us online.
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