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When an individual suffers an injury on-the-job, they can usually obtain worker’s compensation benefits, including wage replacement and medical expenses coverage. However, compensation for workplace injuries can happen through a personal injury claim. A third-party case is the most common personal injury claim arising from a workplace injury.
Read on for more information about the benefits available through worker’s compensation and the types of accidents that could warrant a third-party claim with the help of a worker's comp lawyer.
Worker’s compensation is a type of no-fault insurance that most private employers in the nation must purchase on behalf of their employees. Worker’s compensation coverage must be available for the employee from the first day of employment.
While the rules for filing a worker’s compensation claim vary from state to state, the process generally includes:
The main benefits available through worker’s compensation are wage replacement and medical coverage.
There are four types of wage replacement benefits available:
In addition to wage replacement and medical benefits, state worker's compensation programs often provide other benefits, including compensation for funeral and burial services, income replacement benefits for family members of an individual who died from a workplace injury, and vocational rehabilitation and training for injured workers who need to change careers to accommodate an injury.
In most cases, worker’s compensation is available regardless of who was at fault for causing the workplace injury.
However, there are several reasons why a worker’s compensation policy could deny your claim, such as:
As mentioned, there are times when the personal injury claims process is the appropriate avenue to seek compensation for the expenses and effects of a workplace injury.
Because most employers must provide worker’s compensation insurance to compensate for injuries that occur in the workplace, most individuals cannot file personal injury claims against an employer or coworker and try to prove negligence in court. However, if a third party’s (someone who is not a coworker or employer) negligence caused the accident, they can.
One of the most common third-party liability claims involving a workplace accident involves individuals who work as hired drivers or road construction workers in transportation accidents caused by drivers unrelated to their job.
According to the National Safety Council, more than 50 workers die as pedestrians in work zones on U.S. roadways yearly. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that transportation accidents injured 940 driver/sales workers in one year. Many of these accidents resulted from another driver’s negligence. The at-fault driver’s auto liability insurance policy would likely compensate for this accident.
Another workplace accident that often features third-party liability is an accident occurring on a construction site. Determining liability in a construction site accident can be complex because several subcontracted companies often occupy the sites.
If an injury occurs from negligent safety practices by a general contractor or the employee of another subcontractor on the site, the injured worker can generally seek compensation through a personal injury claim. The general contractor or at-fault subcontractor's commercial liability policy would likely compensate for this injury.
A final example of a workplace injury featuring third-party liability involves an office worker who becomes injured due to a condition created by the worker of a contracted company, such as a company offering cleaning services in the building.
Let’s say a cleaning company employee mopped and waxed the office building floors, making them slippery to walk on, and failed to provide prominent warning signs near the hazard.
Because premises liability rules apply to property owners and those in control of the property—even temporarily—the cleaning company could be liable for an office worker’s injury from slipping and falling on the slippery floors. The cleaning company’s commercial liability policy can compensate for this accident.
The personal injury claims process generally begins when an injured party hires an experienced personal injury lawyer to help them with their claim. The lawyer and their legal team conduct an extensive investigation into the accident to determine all sources of liability and insurance resources to compensate their client and begin to gather the evidence needed to prove the claim and file the worker's comp claim.
Once the claimant’s injury stabilizes and there is a clearer picture of the effects and expenses involved in their claim, the attorney will establish the claim’s value and send a demand to the at-fault party’s liability insurance provider.
The insurance provider can accept the claim, deny the claim, or offer to settle the claim out-of-court for less than its established value. If the provider offers a settlement, it will often be far lower than the claim’s value. The attorney will negotiate with the provider to get them to increase their offer to a level that can fairly compensate the worker for their injuries.
If the provider fails to pay the claim, the victim’s attorney can submit a personal injury lawsuit in civil court. A personal injury lawsuit is a legal claim the injured party wishes to have a judge or jury consider and determine liability and compensation. All states have a statute of limitations for filing personal injury claims: a deadline for filing a lawsuit in court.
In Wisconsin, for example, the statute of limitations on personal injury claims is three years after the date on which the accident occurred. In Minnesota, the deadline is two years.
While the claim does not have to resolve by the time the statute of limitations expires, a victim must file the claim within this period. Allowing the statute of limitations to expire will generally result in the claimant losing their right to use the court process when seeking compensation for their injury. This expiration will usually mean the claimant cannot get a settlement as well, as most insurance providers will not pay a settlement if they aren’t facing litigation if they refuse.
The parties can offer and agree to a settlement on a personal injury claim at any time during the personal injury claims process, as long as the court has not yet decided the matter.
While worker’s compensation provides wage replacement and medical coverage, individuals seeking compensation through a personal injury claim have an expanded list of expenses and effects, including:
Many personal injury lawyers can assist individuals with a worker's compensation or personal injury claim. In fact, during the free case evaluation, they will even assist the injured party in determining which process is the appropriate method for seeking compensation for their injuries, based on the facts of their case.
A free case evaluation is a no-obligation conversation that a prospective claimant can have with an experienced attorney in which they can discuss their case, learn more about the process of seeking compensation, and obtain information about the attorney’s experience and approach to cases like theirs. Contact a personal injury attorney today to start your consultation.