Making a claim against a third party when injured on the job

Hoffspiegel Law Blog

Most of us realize that if we are injured on the job, we have a claim against our employer.  The employer is subject to the Workers’ Compensation Act if there are three or more employees regularly employed.  If so, there are provisions for medical care and, if out more than 1 week, for wage replacement.  What happens if you are injured by someone who is not a co-worker?  What can you do?

An injury in the course and scope of employment is covered by workers’ compensation.  The most common way to be injured by a third party while on the job is in a motor vehicle collision.  Of course, you can be injured by a third party delivery person or a faulty product or machine or in innumerable ways.  But the rules are the same.  You are still entitled to workers’ compensation benefits and you have the ability to make a separate civil claim against the third party.  The only caveat is that in some circumstances, your employer may be able to make a claim for reimbursement of monies they have laid out.  This claim can often be defeated if you can show that you were not fully compensated. 

You have the advantage of using the workers’ compensation coverage to take care of your medical bills (though you may not be getting optimum care!) and pursuing the third party.  If you bring suit against the third party, under certain circumstances your employer can join the suit in an attempt to recover expenses, but that does not happen often.  Find counsel who can either handle both the workers’ compensation claim (if the injury is serious enough to merit it or if your employer is not covering you as they should) and the third party claim.  Or who will be sure to refer you to a reliable workers’ compensation attorney.  Make sure when the third party claim is resolved, you are not leaving any loose ends such as the aforementioned reimbursement claim from your employer.  Make sure you are aware of the timelines…for a garden variety auto injury claim you have two years to file suit if the matter is not settled.  And make sure you have taken advantage of all available insurance, including uninsured motorist coverage on your own policy if needed in the case of either an uninsured motorist or an underinsured motorist being the cause of your injuries.  Act quickly…witnesses tend to be harder to locate after a time and memories fade.  Good luck!

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