What’s the difference between workers’ comp and a third-party claim?

| Sep 25, 2020 | Construction Accidents, Personal Injury, Premises Liability

Workplace injuries are a common occurrence across the state of New York. In 2018, the Bureau of Labor Statistics recorded 80,200 severe workplace injury and illness cases among private employers. That means they involved days away from work, a transfer or restrictions. Goods-producing businesses, such as in construction or natural resources, saw fairly high rates of these severe injuries.

When a workplace injury leaves an individual with expensive medical bills and impacts their ability to earn a living, what options might they have for recourse?

Workers’ compensation and employer-caused injuries

Workers’ compensation is the catch-all safety net for workplace injuries. In most cases, how the injury occurred does not matter; workers’ comp will generally provide an opportunity to receive financial relief.

This includes injuries suffered as a result of an employer’s negligence. If you were injured because your direct employer did not provide proper safety training, for example, or neglected to ensure the work site was free from hazards, you have to seek compensation through the workers’ comp system.

This can put injured employees in a difficult spot. Workers’ compensation often doesn’t provide a complete paycheck and may not fully cover the financial impact of serious injuries. The law, however, generally does not allow an employee to sue their employer directly in order to make up this gap.

When a third-party action may be possible

If the negligent actions of a third party, such as a subcontractor, caused the workplace injury, then the victim can consider a third-party action. This is a personal injury lawsuit you would file against the responsible third party, allowing you to pursue full compensation for the harm.

On a construction site, for example, this might include:

  • The manufacturer of faulty equipment
  • A subcontractor that improperly erects scaffolding
  • A separate contractor that does not provide their workers safety training
  • A site supervisor that fails to check the stability of a trench
  • A subcontractor that does not secure debris during high winds

A successful third-party claim requires demonstrating that hazardous conditions caused the injury, and that the third party had control over those hazardous conditions and should have recognized they were dangerous. One thing to note: If you have a successful third-party action, you will likely need to reimburse any workers’ compensation you had been awarded for the incident.

Every workplace injury is different. Some will require making a claim through workers’ compensation, while others may be best suited for a third-party lawsuit. The most important thing is that an injured worker gets the financial support rightfully owed to them.