Third-Party Claims vs. Workers’ Comp in Pennsylvania
In Pennsylvania, employees injured on the job may seek financial help from the state’s Workers’ Compensation system. While lawsuits against employers after accidents are prohibited, barring very limited circumstances, claims against third parties are often fair game.
Workers’ Compensation is a system under which injured workers and employees may receive financial compensation for workplace accidents and injuries. This system has many benefits, including coverage for medical expenses and the fact that you usually do not need to prove fault. However, injured employees are limited in where they may seek compensation, and lawsuits against employers are typically off-limits. Instead, you might file a claim against a third party. Third-party claims involve defendants who contributed to the accident without being directly involved or are outside the employer-employee relationship. You can file a third-party claim alongside your Workers’ Compensation claim, although you may not recover damages twice for the same injuries.
Schedule a free case assessment at The Reiff Law Firm by calling our Philadelphia workplace injury lawyers at (215) 709-6940.
How Does Workers’ Compensation Work in Pennsylvania?
Workers’ Compensation is a type of insurance that employers are legally required to carry. Under this system, employees injured at work may file a claim and get insurance coverage for their injuries. Benefits under Workers’ Compensation in Pennsylvania include medical coverage for reasonably necessary treatment and a portion of lost wages. Since injured workers often cannot recover the full extent of their lost wages or non-economic damages for pain and suffering, many seek to file lawsuits to recover additional compensation.
Unfortunately, you typically cannot sue your employer under the Workers’ Compensation system. Not only that, but a Workers’ Compensation claim is often mandatory, meaning you cannot opt out in favor of filing a lawsuit against your boss for negligence.
However, not all lawsuits are barred. Our Delaware County personal injury lawyers will review your case to determine if any third parties might have contributed to your accident. If they did, you can file a third-party claim in addition to your Workers’ Compensation claim.
What is a Third-Party Claim for a Workplace Accident in Pennsylvania?
A third-party claim is a lawsuit against a defendant who was not directly involved in your workplace accident but still contributed to its happening. In workplace injury cases, a third party is typically someone outside the employer-employee relationship. Since the Workers’ Compensation system only prohibits you from suing your employer and coworkers, third-party claims are permitted.
You might wonder how someone not directly involved in your accident could still be held liable for your injuries. While the concept sounds implausible, it is more common than many realize. Lots of people or entities other than coworkers and employers might be involved in your job duties. For example, if an irate customer hurts you, you can sue that customer for your injuries in a third-party lawsuit.
Another example might involve a car accident. Suppose you drive a delivery truck as part of your job, and on your regular route, another driver causes an accident, and you are injured on the job. You can sue the other driver for their negligence because the Workers’ Compensation system does not protect them from liability.
Potential Third-Party Claims in a Workers’ Compensation Case in Pennsylvania
A third-party claim may be filed if someone other than your employer or coworkers is responsible for your accident. Various claims against different third parties are possible, and you should speak with an attorney to determine what kind of claim you have, if any.
Many workplace accidents and injuries are caused by faulty tools or equipment. For example, a mechanic might be injured if the power tools they use to repair cars malfunction. Maybe you work in a restaurant kitchen, and the oven malfunctioned and burned you. If the product that caused your injury was faulty or defective, you can sue the manufacturer in a third-party lawsuit.
To be successful, we must show that the product was defective or damaged and that you were using it for its intended purpose safely. A defect might include parts that do not work as they should. We could also argue that the item was not damaged but poorly designed so that it could not function safely.
We can compare the faulty product to other products within the same industry to prove your claims. We can also examine industry safety standards to prove the defective item did not comply.
Another possibility is that your accident occurred because of unsafe conditions at your workplace. Depending on who owns the property where you worked, you might sue the owner in a premises liability lawsuit.
In a premises liability lawsuit, injured plaintiffs may sue property owners for negligently maintaining their property, leading to unsafe conditions or hazards that cause accidents. The defendant may be liable simply because they owned the property and failed to keep it safe for others.
If the property owner is also your boss, which is not an uncommon working arrangement, you cannot sue them. However, if your job has you traveling to different locations, and hazardous conditions injure you at one of those locations, you might sue the property owner for damages.
Can I File a Third-Party Claim and a Workers’ Compensation Claim Together in Pennsylvania?
For the most part, you should not have a problem filing a Workers’ Compensation claim and filing a third-party lawsuit simultaneously. Filing one does not bar the other. However, you should know that you may not recover damages for the same injuries twice.
For example, you may receive benefits covering your medical expenses through a Workers’ Compensation claim. You can also claim your medical expenses in a third-party lawsuit. You cannot be compensated twice for your medical bills. Instead, whatever compensation you receive from your third-party lawsuit may be paid back to the insurance company that covered your medical costs through Workers’ Compensation.
Call Our Workers’ Compensation Attorneys for Help
Schedule a free case review at The Reiff Law Firm by calling our Philadelphia personal injury attorneys at (215) 709-6940.