When workers are injured on the job in California, they may be able to bring a workers' compensation claim. As an injured victim you might get paid for a work related injury. Under California law, workers who are injured on the job are eligible to receive workers' compensation benefits, which are awarded without the need to prove fault on the part of the employer or employee. But, in some cases, depending on facts and circumstances, workers may also be able to bring a third-party liability claim.
This is possible in cases where the work injury is caused by the negligence of a third party - an individual or entity other than the employer - which caused the work-related injury. Third-party liability could stem from common situations such as manufacturing or design defects, negligent drivers who injure workers or property owners whose negligence caused the work-related injury.
What is a Third Party Case?
Workers' compensation benefits typically cover medical expenses and a portion of lost wages. However, most workers' compensation payments are inadequate and may not fully cover all losses. Workers' compensation also does not cover pain and suffering, emotional distress. In a third-party claim, workers would be able to seek noneconomic as well as punitive damages.
Under California law, workers' comp law states that workers cannot sue their employers after suffering an on-the-job injury in most cases regardless of whether some action or negligent conduct of their employer caused or contributed to the injury accident. However, the injured worker could have the right to receive substantial additional monetary damages in the form of a "third-party lawsuit," if the facts of the case show that a third party was in whole or in part, legally responsible for the accident.
Examples of Third Parties in Work Injury Cases
Whether you are able to hold a third party legally responsible for the worker's injuries depends on the facts and circumstances of the work injury case. Here are some of the parties most commonly involved in third party cases:
General contractors: Some of the most common workplace accidents involving third parties occur at construction site where there are different types of workers and laborers from ironworkers and bricklayers to plumbers, carpenters and electricians perform various jobs. Anyone of these workers can become injured in a construction accident working on the job.
These workers are typically employed by sub-contractors who are then hired by a general contractor or a construction company. If a worker is injured due to the negligence of an employee of another subcontractor, the injured worker could have a potential third party case against the subcontractor, general contractor or possibly the owner of the property where the accident took place.
Defective machinery: A third-party case may also stem from an incident where a worker is injured as the result of defective equipment or tools such as ladders, power drills, power saws, etc. This type of case is known as a product liability lawsuit, which is filed against the manufacturer or a defective piece of machinery or equipment.
Negligent motorist: In some cases, a negligent motorist may cause an auto accident that injures a worker. In such cases, the worker would have a third-party case against the negligent driver of the other vehicle.
Property owner: In cases where a worker is injured because of hazardous conditions on the property, which the property owner should have fixed, they may be able to file a third-party claim against the property owner.
Will I Recover More Money in a Third Party Case?
Yes, the monetary damages recovered in a third-party case are typically much higher than a workers' compensation settlement or award in California. A third-party case is usually filed in the county courthouse. Unlike a workers' compensation claim, a third-party case generally has no limitations on the amount of money an injured person can receive. For example, a jury determining damages in a third-party case may consider a worker's pain and suffering, lost future income, loss of earning capacity and cost of future medical expenses - losses typically not covered in a workers' comp claim. Also, third-party cases often involve several defendants, which increases the potential for a significant higher recovery of damages.
How Can Workers Protect Their Rights in Third Party Cases?
To be successful in a third-party case, workers must prove that a third party was negligent or liable for the accident. Injured workers would be well advised to take the following actions to preserve their rights and maximize recovery:
- Do not provide any statements to anyone other than your attorney or an investigator from your lawyer's office.
- Take photos and/or videos of the accident scene including the equipment or tools responsible for causing your injuries.
- Obtain names and addresses of any potential witnesses of legally responsible third parties.
- Get prompt medical attention, treatment and care for your injuries.
How Our Work Injury Lawyers Can Help You
At Greenberg & Ruby Injury Attorneys, APC, our Los Angeles work injury lawyers have experience handling all types of work injury cases including third-party claims. We don't look at a work injury case as a workers' comp case or a personal injury case. Our goal is to help maximize your overall potential recovery by looking at your situation in its entirety.
Our experienced team of attorneys strives to develop the most effective strategies, identify qualified expert witnesses, compile the evidence that is necessary to prove and support your claim, and negotiate for the highest possible recovery for our clients. Contact an experienced third party lawyer at Greenberg & Ruby Injury Attorneys, APC for a free consultation and comprehensive case evaluation.