My workers' compensation attorney suggested that I meet with a personal injury lawyer to explore a potential "third party" lawsuit. Why should I consider pursuing a third party case?
Workers' compensation is a no-fault system in which your employer provides medical care and disability benefits for injuries that occur during the course and scope of your employment. However, many injured workers find that the workers' compensation benefits are completely inadequate. Under some circumstances, there may be someone other than the employer (i.e. a third party) who has legal responsibility for your injuries. You can bring a personal injury lawsuit against a third party while maintaining your workers' compensation claim. For example, if a defective machine injured you at work, you may have a product liability claim against the manufacturer of the machine. If you were working on a construction site and another contractor dropped a beam on your foot, you could sue that contractor for negligence. Unlike workers' compensation claims, personal injury lawsuits require evidence of the third party's fault, but the potential monetary recovery may be much larger than workers' compensation benefits.
Available damages from a personal injury lawsuit include past and future loss of earnings or earning capacity, medical expenses, and loss of household services. You may also recover damages for pain, suffering, loss of enjoyment, and other non-economic damages, which are unavailable in workers' compensation. Non-economic damages can provide a substantial recovery, particularly in cases of a severe injury. Additionally, your spouse can bring a claim for loss of consortium to recover damages for the harm caused to your marital relationship as a result of your injuries.
Not every workplace injury will have a potential third party lawsuit. The viability of a third party lawsuit and the potential recoverable damages will depend on your particular set of circumstances. It is therefore important that you speak with a personal injury attorney who regularly handles third party cases to determine your options.
-Kimberly Wong, The Veen Firm, PC
This Month's Expert; Kimberly Wong