What Is a Third-Party Claim?
A third-party claim is a liability claim filed by an employee who sustains serious workplace injuries caused by a person or entity other than the employer. This claim allows the injured employee to collect damages for pain, emotional suffering, and loss of independence that are not covered under workers’ compensation.
Worker’s compensation only takes care of lost earnings and medical fees. This system bars the injured employee from suing the employer for most injuries sustained at work.
Proving Fault in a Third-Party Lawsuit
An employee hurt at work by a third party can pursue a workers’ compensation claim and still file a separate lawsuit against the party liable for his or her injuries. The no-fault aspect of workers’ compensation allows the worker to receive benefits without having to demonstrate that his or her employer was reckless.
Collecting damages through a third-party lawsuit, however, involves proving the third party’s negligence. An injured worker must convince the judge that his or her injuries were a result of the circumstances created by the third party. A third-party claim must demonstrate that:
- The injury victim had an accident at work
- The injury victim was owed a duty of care by the third party
- The third-party breached this duty of care
- The victim sustained injuries
- His or her injuries were as a result of the accident that happened at work
Common Work-Related Accidents that Third Parties Cause
- Car Crash During Work Time
An employee injured in a car crash as he or she is driving to meet a client or take care of a work-related assignment qualifies for workers’ compensation and can file an injury claim against the at-fault party, as well. If the liable party is a drunk driver and the crash results in a fatality, the family of the employee killed by a drunk driver can file a wrongful death lawsuit against that driver.
An employee injured by a toxic substance may make a third-party claim against the manufacturer. Toxic substances comprise lead-based paint, poisonous gasses, asbestos, and a variety of other substances that may cause severe injuries either directly or indirectly. If the injured worker can demonstrate that the employer knew about the presence of a toxic substance and just ignored it, he or she may also be able to file an injury claim against the employer.
An injured worker may bring a third-party claim against a manufacturer, especially if defective equipment caused the injuries. This is known as a product liability claim.
Construction Site Accidents
The general contractor has the legal responsibility of ensuring the construction site is safe. A worker injured on a construction site while working for a subcontractor may make a third-party claim against the general contractor. For instance, if a painter gets electrocuted due to unlabeled live wires, he or she may hold the general contractor responsible for the injuries for failing to adhere to OSHA guidelines for electrical wires.
Situations When an Injured Employee Can Sue the Employer
Generally, an injured employee cannot sue an employer who has workers’ compensation coverage for work-related injuries. However, there are some instances where a work injury also results in a personal injury claim against the employer. They include:
Employer’s Gross Negligence
If an injured employee can prove that the work-related injury happened because of the employer’s gross negligence, the employee has the right to sue the employer even if he or she carries valid workers’ compensation insurance.
Assault by the Employer
Workers’ compensation insurance doesn’t protect employers who assault their employees from lawsuits filed by assaulted workers. The injured worker may sue the employer for medical fees, full lost wages, pain, and emotional trauma. He or she may also be able to hold the employer liable for punitive damages.