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Workers’ Comp vs. Third-Party Liability

By: Dan Hausman

When a person is injured while they are at work, they are often able to turn to workers’ compensation to receive payment from their employer.

Depending on circumstances surrounding the injury, there may be companies other than the injured person’s employer and people who are not co-workers who are additionally responsible for compensating the injured person for the damages they sustained. It is a good idea to call an experienced attorney to help understand what legal action can be taken when harmed during the course of one’s employment.

Our team at Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel, P.C. can examine the facts surrounding a workplace injury to determine what remedies are available and can explain the difference between workers’ compensation claims and third-party liability claims.

Workers’ Compensation Claims

Workers who suffer injuries while performing job-related duties may be able to file workers’ compensation claims even if the injury occurred at no fault of any person or entity. Workers’ comp insurance is paid for by employers and is part of a statutory scheme in each of D.C., Maryland, and Virginia that ensures people injured at work receive benefits.

Workers’ compensation exists to help injured workers no matter the causes of an injury. Benefits provided through the no-fault insurance coverage can pay for necessary medical treatment and provide benefits for salary supplementation and disability.

In exchange for benefits, employees are barred from collecting compensation from their employer through a lawsuit that claims personal injuries due to the fault of the employer. Workers’ comp is essentially a safety network for those injured on the job. No matter who is at fault, one can collect worker’s comp in almost every circumstance if one is harmed while working.

Third-Party Liability Claims

Many think workers’ compensation is the only option for compensation after a workplace injury. However, in cases where negligence is involved, third-party claims can also be brought in addition to workers’ compensation claims. Third-party claims allow an injured employee to seek compensation from a person or entity who caused the accident who is not their employer or one employed by their employer. Some examples of potential third-party claims include:

  • Negligent driver of another vehicle – People involved in car accidents while in a company vehicle can file a third-party claim against an at fault driver who caused the crash.
  • Equipment defect – Workplaces use a variety of equipment; from handheld tools to heavy machinery. When work tools or equipment are defectively designed or manufactured and harm someone, manufacturers can be held accountable for the injury through a third-party product liability claim.
  • Failure to warn or instruct – There are worksites where many employers have their own employees working on the same project. Some of these employers and their employees engage in work that can be dangerous or create hazards to others. Because these employers and employees often have a duty to warn others on the site about hazards and instruct people about how to handle them safely, thy can be held liable for injuries which result from failing to properly instruct others or warn others sufficiently, they can be liable through a third-party claim for any resulting injures.
  • Premises liability – Third-party claims against property owners may be warranted under premises liability laws when injuries occur on someone else’s property as a result of a hazard that is known or should be known.

If you are in the Washington D.C. metropolitan area and sustain a workplace injury, it is important to understand your rights. You can contact our firm for a free consultation about your potential case.