I have 14 years of experience handling workplace construction accident cases. These injuries are often quite serious and require the expertise of an experienced workplace injury lawyer. Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation is a complex maze of rules and regulations that the insurer likes to use to minimize an injured worker’s case. Navigating this system alone is a foolish move.
An important aspect of these cases is spotting a 3rd party case. A 3rd party case is a case for negligence against a 3rd party- that is, an entity other than the Employer. An injured worker’s sole remedy for the work-related injury with respect to the Employer is the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Law. However, if a 3rd party was responsible for causing the work-related injury, then a 3rd party case for negligence may be viable. The damages are different in these parallel cases. In the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation case, the damages (ie, benefits) are equivalent to the loss of earning power and medical benefits. In a personal injury case, however, the damages may include pain and suffering.
What are some examples of a 3rd party case? If you were injured in a motor vehicle accident while working, you would have a Pennsylvania Work Comp case against the Employer and a 3rd party case against the driver of the automobile if the driver’s negligence caused the injuries. Or, if you were working in a deli and cut off your finger because a machine malfunctioned, you would have a Pennsylvania Work Comp case against the Employer and a 3rd party case against the manufacturer of the machine that malfunctioned.
I have come across many situations where an injured worker has a Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation lawyer who has failed to spot a possible 3rd party case. This is a costly error- possibly costing the injured worker millions of dollars in damages outside of the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation case. Now, not every workplace injury in Pennsylvania has a viable 3rd party action. Indeed, one must prove negligence on a 3rd party and show that the negligence was the proximate cause of the injuries. But the failure to alert the injured worker as to a possible 3rd party case is inexcusable.
When an injured worker has a viable 3rd party case, in addition to the PA Work Comp case, the attorneys must consult with each other to maximize the cases. Why? Well, the work comp insurance carrier has a right to subrogation. Subrogation essentially means the right to reimbursement. In these contexts, this means the carrier is entitled to a portion of the 3rd party settlement proceeds (less attorneys’ fees and costs) unless that lien is waived or reduced voluntarily. This concept can be tricky and difficult to comprehend so it is important for the lawyers to translate this to his/her client so that he understands the implications of subrogation on the two cases.
It is very important to get a consult as soon after a work injury as possible. In Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation the statute of limitations is 3 years. In personal injury (ie, 3rd party) cases, it is a 2 year statute in Pennsylvania. However, the sooner a claim is investigated, the better the odds are at a favorable outcome.
If you were injured at work, call me or email me for a free and prompt consult 7 days a week. Toll FREE (877) 560-7090 or firstname.lastname@example.org