If you’ve been injured in a work-related accident, you may think that your only option to obtain medical treatment and financial recovery is the workers’ compensation system. This is not the case if your accident was caused by any of the following: 1) a person employed by a different employer; 2) a dangerous condition of property not owned or controlled by your employer; or 3) a faulty product that was not manufactured by your employer. These external factors create a situation called “third party liability.” Basically, it means someone or some entity that is separate from your employer may be at fault for your injury.
For example, Joe Wolfe is an employee of ACME Corp, working in his employer’s warehouse pulling orders. A coworker accidentally knocks a pile of boxes onto Joe, causing serious injuries. Joe’s exclusive remedy is through the workers’ compensation system because the sole cause of the accident was a fellow employee. But let’s change the facts slightly. Joe is working in the ACME Corp. warehouse when a delivery person for Xpress Deliveries, Inc. knocks over the pile of boxes, causing injury to Joe. Under this scenario, Joe has a workers’ compensation action available to him through his employer, but he also has a civil personal injury case he can make against Xpress Deliveries, Inc. for the negligence of their employee. Joe can maintain both actions simultaneously.
Another example would be if you are at work and you are injured because a newly installed light fixture falls onto you. In this situation you may have a civil personal injury case against the person or company who installed the light fixture in addition to your workers’ compensation case with your employer
Let’s look at an example of an accident that occurs outside of the workplace. Sam Brown is an electrical repairman for a local utility. He is out on the job clearing fallen tree branches that downed a power line. While he’s working on the side of the road, a vehicle swerves out of control and strikes him. Sam has a workers compensation claim against the utility company and a civil personal injury case against the negligent driver.
The two cases usually have two different sets of attorneys, but the attorneys for your workers’ compensation case generally work in cooperation with the attorneys for your civil case to ensure all of your rights are protected.
We call these crossover cases and we handle the personal injury side regularly at Mahoney Law Group. If you have a workers’ compensation claim and believe a third party may have caused or contributed to your injury, we have the expertise to help you sort through the facts and pursue all of your rights under the law.