Most people know that if you suffer injury at work, you can apply for workers' compensation benefits. On one hand, this process is simpler than a lawsuit and does not require proving negligence; on the other, available benefits have some strict limitations. For example, pain and suffering is generally not a kind of loss workers' comp will pay for.
However, in some situations, an injured worker may be able to file a third-party lawsuit in addition to applying for workers' comp benefits. This possibility arises when the party actually at fault for the injury is not your employer.
One common type of workplace injury happens when an employee is on the road in the course of his or her employment. If you get into a car crash while performing a work task such as making a delivery, you can pursue action against the driver who caused the accident. In other situations, an independent contractor at your workplace can negligently cause injuries.
Faulty machinery or equipment is another major cause of workplace injury. When this malfunction occurs because the manufacturer sold a defective product or the contractor who owns the equipment failed to properly maintain it, these parties may bear the legal responsibility for resulting injuries.
If your employment includes work on other parties' sites, the owner of the property may be liable if he or she negligently allowed the existence of a dangerous condition. For example, electricians, plumbers and other workers who perform their jobs in private homes may have a cause of action against the homeowner for various types of injuries.
Effect on workers' compensation benefits
You may receive approval for your workers' comp claim and begin getting benefits before the resolution of your third-party claim. If you do receive a judgment or settlement in your lawsuit, you may need to refund some of the benefits. Generally, this is not often an issue of concern, as recovery amounts tend to exceed the amounts of the benefits.