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Workers’ Compensation Claim vs. Third-Party Liability

When a worker suffers an injury or illness that is work-related, the injury or illness might not necessarily be the employer’s fault. In some work-related injury scenarios, a third party might be liable for causing the worker’s injuries or illness. When an work-related injury or illness occurs due to the actions or negligence of a third party, the injured worker could pursue a third party liability action against the responsible third party. There is a difference between a workers’ compensation claim and a third party liability personal injury claim, as well as what they can do for injured workers.

Workers’ Compensation Claim

Workers’ compensation claims are meant to provide workers with temporary benefits for work-related injuries and illnesses. Workers’ compensation benefits provide medical expenses and income replacement benefits, but most of these benefits are limited in terms of how long an injured worker may claim them. An injured worker could be out of workers’ compensation benefits after a few years, and yet still be suffering persistent work-related injuries caused by the liable third party.

Workers’ compensation benefits are obtained by filing the appropriate forms with the Texas Department of Insurance, Division of Workers’ Compensation.

  • Injured workers can file an Employee’s Claim for Compensation for a Work-Related Injury or Occupational Disease form (DWC Form-041) within the one-year statute of limitations for filing a claim.
  • Surviving family members (surviving spouse, children, grandchildren, other dependants and parents, if eligible) can file a Beneficiary Claim for Death Benefits form (DWC Form-042) within the one-year statute of limitations for filing a claim, along with copies of other legal documentation that can be used to establish surviving family member status.

As a general rule, workers’ compensation is awarded regardless of fault with a handful of exceptions, such as worker intoxication and the willful criminal conduct of the worker or third parties. Generally, worker injuries resulting from workplace accidents or injuries caused by co-workers are covered by workers’ compensation insurance. But there are some situations where the fault of the workplace accident lies with someone other than the employer or the injured employee. A third party, such as a vendor, supplier or company, etc., could have caused the injury, and should be held accountable for their actions.

Third Party Liability

When a third party is responsible for causing a worker’s injury, the injured worker, or, in the case of wrongful death, the worker’s surviving family members, can seek compensation from the responsible third party via a personal injury claim, or wrongful death claim. Third party liability cases can be brought supplemental to any workers’ compensation claim that is being pursued by the injured worker.

A third party liability suit is like any other personal injury or wrongful death suit, and follows the same procedure and statute of limitations. The statute of limitations for a personal injury claim or a wrongful death claim is two years from the date of the injury discovery of the illness, or death of the victim worker, respectively. A third party liability suit can be useful for an injured worker to obtain financial compensation for their long-term injuries and future medical care.

An injured party, or the surviving family members, can file their claim against the liable third party or parties, or can seek to enter into settlement negotiations with the liable parties. A few examples of common third party liability workplace accidents include:

  • Injuries resulting from the defective design or manufacturing defect of a product used by the worker while on the job;
  • Injuries resulting from automobile accidents occurring due to the negligence or intentional actions of a third party, while the worker was on the clock; and
  • Injuries arising from premises liability issues if visiting other businesses is part of the injured employee’s job.

A third party liability suit has the potential to provide an injured worker with more compensation for their injuries than a workers’ compensation claim will provide. This is because in a third party liability suit, an injured worker can obtain compensation for pain and suffering, mental anguish, and other noneconomic injuries stemming from the work-related injury or illness. Additionally, punitive damages could also be awarded under the right circumstances in a third party liability suit, making the recovery for the injured worker that much larger.

Injured workers that are interested in pursuing a liable third party should consult with a personal injury lawyer about the details of their specific case and should discuss the injured worker’s injuries. A personal injury lawyer can identify all of the potentially liable parties, and can help strategize how best to obtain the maximum amount of compensation available in light of the facts and circumstances leading up to the injured worker’s injuries.

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