What is a Third-Party Lawsuit?
A third-party lawsuit, most simply put, is a lawsuit filed often against a person or group of persons not directly involved with your place of employment, but taking place while you are technically on the job. In most cases where a third-party lawsuit is justified, the employee who files it is usually involved in a car accident or an off-site accident that involves some sort of negligence on part of property owners or managers. Some typical examples of a third-party suit include suffering a fall in icy conditions on property where an employee is sent to work or a car accident that a truck driver may suffer while on the highway.
The Benefits of a Third-Party Lawsuit
When discussing options for employees to receive compensation for lost wages, most of them turn to worker’s compensation programs. And rightfully so, as many of the cases that cause employees to be out of work for extended periods of time are generally the result of accidental injury at their work site. However, there are times when an employee might be urged to file a third-party lawsuit in pursuit of further compensation.
Why File Third-Party?
On a general scale, employees suffer injury in the workplace due to accidental conditions: faulty equipment or circumstantial experience such as a fallen ladder or a wet floor. The resultant injuries are generally settled with a worker’s compensation policy through the employer. This type of compensation will afford you your medical bills that come as a direct result of your injuries suffered from the incident as well as restore some of your wages lost from time spent out of work.
While many might consider that worker’s compensation covers a favorable portion, seeking out a third-party lawsuit could conceivably award you significantly more. Third-party lawsuits, on top of fully compensating for medical bills as well fully covering lost wages resulting from time away from work, will also award recompense for what are classified as “non-economic” damages. These can extend into pain and suffering brought on by potentially life-changing injuries as well as punitive damages: damages that are awarded by a suit simply as an act of punishing a defendant for his or her actions.
In circumstances where an employee receives worker’s compensation and subsequently files and wins a third-party lawsuit, he or she will often be expected to use some of the awarded compensation for refunding the amount of worker’s compensation he or she had received up to that point.
Gross Negligence and Third-Party Lawsuits
Sometimes, in extreme cases – though normally difficult to prove – an employee may actually bring a third-party lawsuit against his or her own employer on account of gross negligence. This sort of lawsuit involves injury due as a direct result of an employer’s action or inaction toward certain circumstances. One such example could involve an employer’s instruction to an employee to work around toxic or otherwise harmful substances without providing the necessary safety equipment. In such cases, the worker’s compensation is issued in the same manner and likewise reimbursed should the employee win the lawsuit brought against the employer.
There are even circumstances where an employee can be confronted by another employee or by his or her employer in a violent manner and could suffer physical injuries because of the altercation. Very similar to gross negligence in terms of principle, an employee can bring about a third-party lawsuit against his or her co-worker or employer while simultaneously receiving worker’s compensation as if suffering a normal, work-related injury. Even beyond worker’s compensation and a third-party lawsuit, an employee may also have the opportunity to bring up criminal charges against the co-worker or employer. However, be aware that if a co-worker or employer can prove a case of self-defense that resulted in injuries to you, it is very unlikely you would even be awarded worker’s compensation, let alone win the lawsuit against them.
Bottom line, while worker’s compensation will do just that – compensate you (often partially) for work time missed due a related injury – the pursuit of a third-party lawsuit will more often than not reward you for damages beyond medical bills and lost wages. Where it applies, a third-party suit will simply grant a greater reward to you for your pain and suffering, which would be especially helpful in situations that involve an extended leave of absence from work or the inability to work at all. If you find yourself in a similar situation, be sure to consider and review your options of a third-party lawsuit with your attorney.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Yosi Yahoudai is a founder and the managing partner of J&Y Law Firm. Yosi is an inspired, aggressive and successful advocate for his clients, especially those who have suffered from construction accidents. He is personally committed to making a difference in his clients’ lives. Nothing makes Yosi happier than getting his clients’ lives back on track.