For more than a century, workers in Virginia and across the country have been financially protected by workers’ compensation benefits.
If a worker is injured on the job, employers must pay, through worker’s compensation insurance, all medical costs related to the injury. They must also pay a portion of wages the worker cannot earn while recovering. These benefits must be paid regardless of whether the employer was at fault. In return, workers have forfeited their right to sue employers for on-the-job injuries.
In practice, this deal does not always work out so fairly. As NPR/ProPublica reports, workers’ compensation benefit have been severely cut in most states in recent years, including in Virginia.
Due to these cuts, an injured worker’s family could wind up paying much of the costs of a job-related injury out of pocket or be forced to turn to assistance such as Medicare or Medicaid.
In light of this, injured workers should think outside the box of workers’ compensation and consider whether a personal injury lawsuit against a negligent third party may be pursued after a workplace accident.
What Is a Third-Party Liability Claim?
Even though a worker cannot sue his or her employer or a co-worker after being hurt on the job, the worker may have the right to pursue a claim against any other person or entity responsible for the injuries and losses the worker has suffered.
This is called a third-party liability claim.
There are many differences between workers’ compensation benefits and third-party liability claims, including:
- Generally speaking, workers’ compensation benefits in Virginia cover 2/3 of the wages that a worker loses because of his or her disability. A successful third-party liability claim, on the other hand, may seek a recovery of all lost wages (which are offset by the amount paid in workers’ compensation).
- Workers’ compensation provides only medical and wage-loss benefits. It does not cover other types of damages, including pain and suffering and punitive damages. Those damages, however, can be sought in a third-party liability claim.
Examples of third parties who may be sued after a workplace accident in Virginia include:
- Manufacturers of defective equipment
- Negligent drivers or machinery operators
- Workers of another employer (subcontractors)
- Architects and engineers
- Property owners
- Medical personnel.
One major difference between a workers’ compensation claim and a third-party liability claim is that the injured worker must establish the fault of one or more parties. This requires the skills and resources of a legal team that has experience with workplace injury cases.
Navigating the intersection between workers’ compensation and a possible personal injury claim can be complicated. If you or a loved has been injured on the job, and you believe someone other than an employer or co-worker is responsible, you should not go it alone.
The law firm of Geoff McDonald & Associates, P.C., can review your case for free and help you to explore all of your options for a recovery. Simply contact us today.