If you sustained injuries or got sick at work, you could receive compensation to help with expenses and move forward with your life.
Two common avenues exist for obtaining that compensation. One is workers' compensation insurance or workers' comp. The other is a third-party lawsuit.
Here is a review of workers' comp and third-party lawsuits in the context of obtaining money for harm you suffered in your employment. Contact an experienced Myrtle Beach workers' compensation lawyer for a free case evaluation to learn more about your rights.
About Workers' Comp
Workers' compensation is no-fault insurance coverage that state laws require most private employers to purchase for their employees' benefit. Its primary role is to protect employees against the financial effects of a work-related injury or illness.
It commonly covers:
- The reasonable costs of medical care for work-related injuries or illnesses.
- A portion of the income from when work-related injuries or illnesses prevent someone from working, reduce their ability to work, or result in a permanent partial or total disability.
- The cost of job retraining if an injury or illness prevents a worker from continuing in their previous employment.
- In the event of a worker's death, a portion of the income that the worker's dependents lost.
Workers' comp doesn't cover an injured or sick worker's non-economic damages, such as physical pain, emotional suffering, or diminished quality of life.
Employees with the right to receive workers' comp benefits usually cannot sue their employers for negligently causing injuries or illnesses. Workers' comp replaces an employer's liability in those cases.
Workers' comp generally covers all of an employer's employees, regardless of their age, job duties, or how many hours they work. It even covers most undocumented workers.
Employers may not pass the cost of workers' comp insurance on to employees. It is the employer's sole obligation. Employers also may not retaliate against employees for seeking workers' comp benefits for work-related injuries or illnesses.
About Third-Party Lawsuits
A third-party lawsuit arises when a worker sustains injuries or falls ill due to the negligence or intentional wrongdoing of a party other than their employer or co-worker. This third party—a subcontractor, an equipment manufacturer, a property owner, or any other person, business, or organization whose unsafe decisions or actions harmed a worker in the course of doing their job—could bear liability to the worker for damages.
If you suffered trauma due to defective safety equipment on a job site, you may have a third-party claim against the manufacturer. If you hurt yourself in a motor vehicle accident while driving a work vehicle in connection with your job, you could file a third-party lawsuit against the other driver.
Third-party lawsuits enable injured or sick workers to seek types and amounts of compensation that workers' comp doesn't cover. A claim in a third-party lawsuit can demand non-economic damages for physical pain, emotional suffering, and loss of enjoyment of life. A successful third-party lawsuit can compensate the worker for any remaining portion of their lost income.
Despite the potential for comprehensive compensation, third-party lawsuits come with their own set of challenges. Unlike no-fault workers' comp claims, suing a third party involves proving liability for an injury or illness and justifying the amount of damages. The process is generally longer and more complicated and may involve going to court.
The Relationship between Workers' Compensation and Third-Party Lawsuits
The fundamental difference between workers' compensation and third-party lawsuits is establishing responsibility for the injury or illness. Workers' compensation applies when a worker sustains an injury or falls ill on the job, irrespective of whether the employer is at fault.
Workers' compensation provides a streamlined process for receiving benefits quickly without establishing fault.
A third-party lawsuit, on the other hand, requires the worker to prove that another party's negligence or intentional wrongdoing is responsible for their injury or illness. Both options can coexist when a third party is also responsible for the worker's injury or illness.
Imagine a scenario where a construction worker falls off a scaffold due to a contractor on site who is not the worker's employer supplying a faulty safety harness.
The worker could file a workers' compensation claim with their employer to cover immediate medical bills and a portion of lost income. They might simultaneously file a third-party lawsuit against the negligent contractor, seeking additional compensation for pain and suffering and other losses excluded from workers' compensation.
You can complicate the process if you claim compensation from both workers' compensation and a third-party lawsuit.
Depending upon the jurisdiction, the workers' compensation insurer might place a lien on any third-party recovery, so the insurer could recoup some or all the workers' compensation benefits if the worker recovers any damages from the third-party lawsuit.
Comply with the legal deadlines for workers' comp and third-party lawsuits, which can differ significantly. Speak to an attorney if you have a work-related injury or illness and want to explore your rights to pursue a workers' comp claim, third-party lawsuit, or both.
A Lawyer's Role in the Process of Filing Workers' Comp Claims and Third-Party Lawsuits
When dealing with work-related injuries or illnesses, have an experienced attorney who can navigate the complexities of workers' compensation claims and third-party lawsuits on your behalf.
An attorney's role includes providing legal advice and representation and ensuring you understand your rights and options.
How an Experienced Lawyer Can Handle a Workers' Comp Claim
Workers' comp insurance companies try to make filing a claim look easy. But the workers' comp process is full of potential pitfalls for the unwary. A slip-up in when or how you present your claim can cost you thousands in benefits.
Hiring an attorney to handle your claim can eliminate those risks. A lawyer can collect and organize the medical records and other evidence to support your claim, prepare and file paperwork, communicate with the workers' comp insurance company, negotiate the maximum possible benefits, and take the insurer to court, if necessary.
While an attorney takes care of everything insurance-related on your behalf, you can focus your time and energy on recovering.
How an Experienced Lawyer Can Handle a Third-Party Lawsuit
An experienced lawyer can investigate the circumstances of your work-related injury or illness to determine liability. They can collect evidence supporting a case for liability against a third party. They can take the necessary steps to meet legal deadlines like the statute of limitations applicable to your case.
A lawyer can also negotiate with the at-fault party's insurance company or attorney to seek a fair settlement of your third-party lawsuit and take your case to trial if necessary.
Frequently Asked Questions About Workers' Comp and Third-Party Lawsuits
Here are the answers to some of the most common questions we hear about workers' comp and third-party lawsuits.
What's the Process for Filing a Workers' Comp Claim?
The process can differ in every state, but it usually involves notifying your employer of the injury or illness as soon as possible and seeking medical care.
Your employer or the workers' compensation insurance company will often approve the doctor. Depending on your state, you may also have to complete and submit a claim form to your employer, doctor, or workers' comp insurer.
The law generally requires your employer to provide you with the necessary information about pursuing a workers' comp claim. A good way to ensure everything goes smoothly is to contact an experienced workers' comp attorney as soon as possible.
What Comes First, a Workers' Comp Claim or a Third-Party Lawsuit?
A workers' comp claim usually comes before a third-party lawsuit. In most states, seeking prompt care for your injury or illness—within a week or two—will preserve your right to workers' comp benefits.
You may have additional time to submit any paperwork seeking income replacement benefits. By imposing a tight timeline, workers' comp ensures you receive support when you need it.
A third-party lawsuit usually has a much longer timeframe. It takes a lawyer time to investigate, collect evidence, and initiate court proceedings. Once you file your claim, a third-party lawsuit takes anywhere from a few months (if it settles) to a year or more (if it goes to court) to resolve.
How Long Until I Receive Money for My Workplace Injury or Illness?
For a workers' comp claim, expect to begin receiving wage-replacement benefits within a few weeks of filing your claim, assuming it meets all the requirements for the insurer to process it.
Should I Accept a Settlement an Insurance Company Offered Me After a Work-Related Injury/Illness?
It is sensible to only agree to a settlement offer after discussing it with an experienced workers' comp and third-party lawsuit attorney. Insurance companies often try to settle for less than a claim is worth.
An attorney can review the offer and discuss whether it adequately covers your expenses and losses. If it doesn't, they can negotiate with the insurance company or take them to court, if necessary. A skilled lawyer can usually secure far more than the insurer initially put on the table.
Contact an Experienced Workers' Comp and Third-Party Lawsuit Lawyer Today
If you or someone you love sustained injuries or fell ill in connection with work, you may have the right to receive significant financial compensation through a workers' comp claim, a third-party lawsuit, or both.
Obtaining full benefits from a workers' comp insurer and a favorable outcome in a lawsuit is not certain. To maximize your chances of securing the financial support you need to pay your bills and recover from your losses, you need a skilled attorney in your corner.
Tight deadlines may apply to your case. Engaging an experienced attorney will ensure that they don't miss deadlines as they will promptly handle the paperwork for your workers' comp claim or third-party lawsuit.
Don't delay. Contact an experienced workers' comp and third-party lawsuit lawyer today for a free case evaluation.