Protecting Injured Workers' Rights
Understanding Third-Party Liability in Workplace Accidents
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA) statistics for 2021, workplace accidents can cause serious injuries or even death.
While nonfatal work injury and illness cases decreased by 1.8% from 2020, 5,190 fatal work injuries increased by 8.9% yearly. These figures demonstrate how workplace safety remains an essential issue for employees and employers.
When an employee is injured on the job, he or she may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits from his or her employer. Workers’ compensation provides medical care, wage replacement benefits and disability payments without needing to prove fault from either party involved; in certain instances, a separate third-party liability claim may also exist against third parties that caused or contributed to an accident; this type of legal proceeding stands independently from workers’ compensation claims.
Third-party liability claims provide additional compensation to injured workers not covered by workers’ compensation, such as pain and suffering, mental anguish or punitive damages. Third-party claims also help hold negligent parties accountable and potentially avoid further accidents from happening.
In this article, we’ll outline what third-party liability is and its various applications within different scenarios of workplace accidents, how to initiate third-party claims for work injuries, its associated challenges and benefits as well as some commonly asked questions (FAQs).
What is Third-Party Liability?
Third-party liability refers to the legal responsibility of individuals or entities other than an employer for workplace accidents or injuries that they cause or contribute to, such as injuries sustained on the job. Individuals not directly employed by an employer could be held responsible if they directly caused or contributed in any way to the injuries of their employees.
Third-party liability can be established via negligence
When an individual or entity breaches an obligation of care owed to another individual or group and causes them harm in return. To prove negligence, the plaintiff (the injured worker) must establish four elements:
Due to their injury, the plaintiff experienced losses or harm.
The breach was the actual and direct cause of the plaintiff’s injuries.
The defendant failed to fulfill their responsibility under this duty.
The defendant (the third party) had a legal obligation to act in a certain way toward the plaintiff.
In cases where workers are injured due to products manufactured by third parties.
Third-party liability claims against product manufacturers may exist. To pursue such a claim, however, evidence must first be presented proving:
Product manufacturers had a responsibility to develop products which are safe and reliable.
Product manufacturers failed in their duty by producing defective goods.
Due to a defective product, an employee was injured and hospitalized.
This worker sustained damages including medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering.
NOW THAT YOU KNOW WHAT THIRD-PARTY LIABILITY IS
Here's the Examples of Third-Party Liability in Workplace Accidents
Third-party liability can arise in many workplace accidents. Examples of common workplace accidents include:
In certain industries like construction, employers can hire subcontractors for specific tasks or services. For example, if an electrical installation by a subcontractor causes a fire on the site that harms other workers, then they can be sued.
The product seller or manufacturer may be responsible for injuries if the malfunction or defect was caused by negligence. For example, if a worker was injured due to an airbag explosion that was made by a third party, the manufacturer of the airbag could be held liable.
Accidents caused by other drivers can affect workers who travel or drive for their jobs. If the other driver was drunk, ran a red light, or drove too quickly, the driver may be responsible. A driver who hits a person delivering goods for his employer while they were running a red light may be able to bring a claim against the other driver as a third party.
Workers visiting other premises as part of their job duties could be injured by hazardous conditions on those properties. If the property owner or manager fails to maintain a safe environment or warn of potential dangers, they may be liable for the worker’s injuries. For example, if a worker slips and falls on a wet floor that was left by a janitorial service at a client’s office, he may have a third-party claim against the cleaning company.
How to Initiate a Third-Party Claim
When a worker is injured on the job, he or she should take the following steps to initiate a third-party claim:
Seek Medical Attention
Protecting workers’ health and well-being should always come first, which means seeking medical treatment as quickly as possible for injuries sustained on the job. Proper documentation will aid both recovery efforts and claims.
Report the Accident
As soon as an incident occurs, workers should inform their employer in accordance with company policies and procedures. Furthermore, workers should inform them if any third parties are involved.
Workers should collect and save any evidence to substantiate their claim, such as photographs of the accident scene, injuries sustained and equipment or conditions that contributed to it; witness statements; police reports; medical records and receipts, etc.
Consult an Attorney
A personal injury lawyer with experience can offer legal advice and represent the worker. The attorney will help the worker evaluate the strength and validity of their claim, identify potential defendants, collect additional evidence, negotiate with insurance companies, file lawsuits if needed, and seek maximum compensation.
Challenges and Benefits of Third-Party Claims
Claim against third parties can be complex for several reasons, including:
Third-party claims may involve multiple parties, such as an employer, their workers’ compensation insurers, third-party defendants and their respective insurance providers. Each may have divergent interests and objectives which could create conflicts or disputes among themselves.
Statute of Limitations
A statute of limitations is the timeframe within which legal actions must be brought forward, failing which the right to sue could be lost. Third-party claims vary by state and claim type; Texas for example has two years from the injury date as its general personal injury statute of the limitation period with exceptions and extensions applicable depending on specific circumstances; therefore it’s essential that victims consult an attorney as soon as they experience an injury to ensure timely proceedings are initiated against any wrongdoers.
Subrogation refers to an insurer’s right to recover amounts it has paid out as benefits from third parties who caused or contributed to losses sustained by an insured person. For instance, if an injured worker receives workers’ compensation benefits through his/her employer’s insurer and then sues another party for additional damages, his or her insurer may have a subrogation interest against either their claim against this third-party defendant or recovery for his or her work damages; they could seek reimbursement either from them directly or from subsequent recoveries made against them, thus potentially reducing compensation benefits received by workers overall.
Though third-party claims can present numerous obstacles, they can also bring significant advantages for injured workers, including:
Third-party claims can help hold negligent parties responsible and help reduce future accidents by sending a message that their behavior will not go unpunished. By filing suit against third parties that caused or contributed to injuries sustained on the job site, injured workers can send out an important signal that this kind of conduct won’t go unpunished.
Workers’ compensation benefits often fall short in covering all of the damages sustained by an injured worker, such as pain and suffering, mental anguish or punitive damages. Third-party claims provide additional compensation for these types of losses in excess of workers’ compensation benefits.
Third-party lawsuits can provide closure and justice for injured workers who have suffered financial, emotional and physical hardships because of someone else’s negligence. An injured worker may assert their rights and pursue fair compensation by pursuing a claim against a third party.
Can Legal Support Help You With Your Third-Party Claim?
You may be wondering if you need legal assistance to pursue a third-party claim if you were injured at work and believe a third party is responsible. Yes, you can use legal assistance to protect your interests and rights in a variety of ways.
Evaluation of your case and the strength of your claim.
Evidence gathering and preservation to prove negligence or causation.
Calculating your losses and damages.
Negotiating with insurance adjusters and attorneys of the other party.
If the settlement offer was inadequate or unfair, you can file a lawsuit.
Representing you at court and presenting the case to a jury.
Enforcement of the judgment or settlement agreement.
Identification of potential defendants, including their insurance companies.
Third-party claims can be complicated and difficult, as they involve multiple parties, legal questions, and procedures. It is best to consult with an experienced personal injury attorney who can help you navigate the legal process and represent your interests.
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Can I sue my employer for negligence?
Generally, no. Workers’ compensation benefits are considered the exclusive remedy for injuries and illnesses arising from work. Workers who receive workers’ compensation cannot sue for negligence. There are exceptions to this rule, where workers can sue their employer in certain circumstances, including:
Employer intentionally injured or tried to harm the employee.
Workers’ compensation laws were not followed or the employer was either without workers’ compensation insurance.
The employer was grossly negligent, or engaged in conduct so egregious that it caused harm to the employee.
As these exceptions may vary depending on your state and case specifics, it is wise to consult an attorney prior to initiating any lawsuit against an employer.
Can I sue a coworker for negligence?
No. Workers’ compensation protects coworkers against being sued by injured workers alleging negligence because coworkers are considered fellow employees working under one employer, and workers’ compensation is the exclusive remedy for work-related injuries or illnesses.
Am I eligible for both workers' and third-party compensation?
Yes. In most instances, workers’ compensation and third-party liability claims are distinct and independent claims; an injured worker can therefore file both with his/her employer’s insurer and directly with any negligent parties or their insurer for both types of benefits.
These restrictions and implications may depend on your state and case specifics; as a result, it is wise to consult an attorney prior to accepting any settlement offer or signing releases from either party.