Generally speaking, an injured worker who receives workers’ compensation benefits in Pennsylvania cannot sue his or her employer for causing a workplace accident.
However, there are situations where an injured worker may file a personal injury lawsuit and seek compensation from another party responsible for the accident that caused the injury. These are known as “third-party lawsuits.” The workers’ compensation attorney and the third-party attorney work together to maximize the total recovery for the client.
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Examples of third-party claims include lawsuits against a negligent driver, the manufacturer of defective work equipment, a property owner or general contractor, or a third-party vendor.
Work Comp Cases vs. Personal Injury Cases
The difference between workers’ compensation and a third-party claim is that workers’ compensation is considered “no-fault” insurance paid for and provided by the employer. An injured worker does not have to prove that someone was at fault to collect benefits. The only proof required is that the worker is an employee and was injured in the course of his employment and that the injury is directly related to his employment.
However, for a third-party claim, you need to establish that the other party acted negligently and is responsible for your injuries.
When Does a Work Comp Case Become a Personal Injury Case Too?
There are several types of work environments where a workplace injury may have grounds for a personal injury claim too.
A few of these are:
• Construction Site Accidents
Construction site accidents need to be especially analyzed by an experienced Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Lawyer.
There are often contractors or subcontractors from various companies that handle various aspects of construction. When a construction accident is caused by a contractor or subcontractor not directly employed by your employer, you may have a third-party personal injury claim.
• Premises Liability Cases
Premises liability cases also need to be analyzed and carefully reviewed by an experienced Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Attorney.
If you are injured due to the condition of premises not owned or maintained by your employer, such as slipping and falling on a wet floor, you may be able to sue a third party.
In addition to these two, there may be other scenarios where both types of legal rules may apply. An experienced workers’ comp attorney can help you guide through them.
3 Factors to Consider When Filing a Personal Injury Claim with Work Comp
Should you file a personal injury claim with a workers’ compensation case? What are the chances of a positive outcome here?
• Always file a third-party lawsuit, when you can, to claim additional damages
Under the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act, recoveries are generally limited to lost wages and medical expenses related to the work injury.
However, a third-party lawsuit by a Pennsylvania personal injury lawyer gives you the right to claim additional damages, including compensation for past and future medical expenses, lost wages, income and employment benefits, diminished future earning potential, rehabilitation, property damage, pain and suffering, mental anguish, anxiety, and depression, diminished quality of life, punitive damages, and loss of consortium.
An experienced workers’ compensation attorney is trained to properly evaluate your case to identify the best litigation strategy and maximize the recovery.
• Keep in mind that third-party lawsuits may diminish Work Comp benefits
You can collect workers’ compensation benefits at the same time that you are pursuing a third-party claim. However, if you receive compensation through a third-party lawsuit, you are generally required to pay back the workers’ compensation benefits from the settlement or award.
An experienced worker’s compensation lawyer can also help you reduce what you have to pay back in workers’ compensation benefits and help you navigate the complex “subrogation” requirements.
• File both your claims as soon as you can
When you are injured on the job, you should promptly contact an experienced workers’ compensation attorney who can guide you through the complex litigation options that are available. Even if the injury is your fault, with limited exceptions you are still entitled to collect workers’ compensation benefits.
Workers’ Compensation claims and personal injury claims can be permanently barred if proper procedures and time-frames are not followed. For instance, in Pennsylvania workers’ compensation injuries must generally be reported to the employer within 120 days. It’s usually best to report work-related injuries immediately to your employer. The longer you wait to report a claim, the greater the chance that the workers’ compensation insurance company will use that as an excuse to deny the claim.
Workers’ Compensation claims are generally time-barred if not filed within three years from the date of injury.
In personal injury cases, there is a two-year statute of limitation in Pennsylvania.
Hiring An Experienced Attorney Can Make All The Difference
We are here to guide you through the frequently overwhelming litigation processes. You need an experienced work comp attorney on your side who is protecting your interests rather than the insurance company’s interests which is usually to pay out the least amount of money and to close out the claim as quickly as possible.
Remember, you want an attorney who knows not just about workers’ compensation law, but also about third-party liability claims to help you recover maximum benefits and remuneration.
Workers’ Compensation precludes you from filing a lawsuit against your employer for your injuries; however, under Pennsylvania law, workers can file personal injury or third-party liability lawsuits against any third-party entity responsible for the injuries.
You need an attorney with expertise to identify negligent third parties. We are here to help you navigate through the challenging process of litigation. We do not collect a fee for our services until we recover benefits for you.