Understanding the line between workers’ compensation and third-party claims can be confusing after an injury on the job. While workers’ compensation is designed to provide essential benefits to injured workers regardless of fault, it has limitations. In certain circumstances, pursuing a third-party claim alongside a workers’ compensation claim can result in an injured worker receiving the additional compensation they need to move on after a life-altering work injury.

In this blog post, the Charleston workers’ compensation lawyers at Joye Law Firm explore the key differences between workers’ compensation and third-party claims and when it is appropriate to file a third-party claim after a workplace injury.

Limitations of Workers’ Compensation

Workers’ compensation provides medical treatment, wage replacement, and disability benefits to injured workers, regardless of fault. However, in some cases, workers’ compensation benefits alone are insufficient to cover all an injured worker’s damages, leaving the worker inadequately compensated for pain and suffering, scarring and disfigurement, and other non-economic damages.

What is a Third-Party Workplace Injury Claim?

Sometimes, someone other than the employee, their employer, or a co-worker bears partial or complete responsibility for a worker’s injuries. Examples include:

  • A contracted supervisor or project manager
  • The manufacturer of defective equipment or machinery
  • A driver who was involved in a motor vehicle accident with the worker
  • An outside vendor or contractor
  • A public utility provider
  • A separate business’ worksite

If any one of these parties caused or contributed to the workplace accident, they could be held accountable for the injured worker’s injuries through a third-party claim.

Joye Law Firm Settles a Third-Party Claim for an Injured Charleston Worker

A man working at a North Charleston textile plant suffered a severe injury to his arm when it was pulled into a warper machine. The machine was originally located at a Charlotte plant but had been moved to the North Charleston plant shortly before the incident. During the move, the safety bar was misplaced, allowing this tragic incident to occur. Our client’s workers’ compensation claim was resolved for the maximum amount recoverable under the Workers’ Compensation Act. However, Attorney Ken Harrell believed there was a viable third-party case against the moving company that moved the warper to Charleston and misplaced the safety bar. Our firm was able to secure an additional $400,000 settlement allowing our client to recover from his injuries and move forward with his life.

Key Differences Between Workers’ Compensation and Third-Party Claims

There are key differences between a workers’ compensation claim and a third-party claim.

  • First, workers’ compensation is a no-fault system, while third-party claims require proof of negligence or fault on the part of the third party.
  • Second, workers’ compensation benefits are limited to medical treatment, wage replacement, and disability benefits, whereas a third-party claim can seek additional damages for pain and suffering, emotional distress, and other non-economic losses.
  • Finally, workers’ compensation benefits are typically paid regardless of the injured worker’s own negligence, while a third-party claim may be reduced if the injured worker is found partially at fault for the accident.

Filing a Third-Party Claim

To file a third-party claim after a workplace accident, an injured worker must first report the accident to their employer and seek appropriate medical attention immediately. Documenting the details that caused the accident and gathering any supporting evidence is the next step in building a strong claim for benefits and compensation.

Finally, the injured worker should enlist the help of an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer in Charleston who understands workplace injury claims in the state of South Carolina and can guide them through the complex process of pursuing a third-party claim alongside workers’ compensation benefits.

When is it Appropriate to File a Third-Party Claim After a Workplace Injury?

It may be appropriate to file a third-party claim after a work injury caused (wholly or partially) by someone other than your employer or a co-worker. Some examples of workplace accidents for which a third-party claim might be appropriate include the following:

  • Car and truck accidents – If you were injured on the job due to another driver’s negligence, you might have grounds for a third-party claim.
  • Animal attacks – If you were attacked by a dog or other animal while working, you may be entitled to file a third-party claim against the animal’s owner.
  • Defective equipment and products – If you were injured at work because the machinery or equipment you were using was defective, you might be entitled to bring a third-party claim against the party that manufactured, designed, or sold the equipment.
  • Inadequate security issues – Injuries caused by negligent security in the workplace may be grounds for a third-party claim against the party who owns or controls the premises.
  • Unsafe premises – If an unreasonable hazard on the work site caused you to be injured, you might be entitled to file a third-party claim against the property owner or site manager.
  • Construction-related accidents – An accident on a construction site can give rise to a third-party claim against the site manager, general contractor, subcontractor, or other party in control of the site.
  • Exposure to toxic chemicals – If you suffer health problems due to exposure to toxic chemicals in the workplace, you may have grounds for a third-party claim against the manufacturer and supplier of the toxic chemical, the contractor or subcontractor, or the property owner.

In each of these cases, it may be necessary for an injured worker to file a third-party claim to recover all the damages related to their work-related accident, including past and future pain and suffering and other non-economic damages.

Consult with an Attorney if you are Considering Filing a Third-Party Claim

Due to the complexity involved with pursuing a third-party claim and the potential for additional compensation, injured workers should seek the advice of a lawyer. By working with a workers’ compensation lawyer, Charleston workers can assess the merits of their workplace injury cases, learn about their rights, and determine the most effective course of action. The firm should be an advocate for the injured worker’s best interests and ensure that they receive maximum compensation for their injuries.

Contact a Charleston Workers’ Compensation Lawyer at Joye Law Firm

If you suffered a workplace injury and are wondering if you may be entitled to file a third-party claim in addition to a workers’ compensation claim, reach out to Joye Law Firm. Our experienced workers’ compensation lawyers have the knowledge, skill, and experience to protect your rights and help you secure the benefits and compensation you need and deserve. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation. We love helping people protect their rights and get what they deserve.

About the Author

Mark Joye is the Head of the Litigation Department at the Joye Law Firm. A Board-Certified Trial Advocate with nearly 30 years of litigation experience, he currently serves on the Board of Governors for the American Association for Justice and is a past president of the South Carolina Association for Justice. In a recent trial, Joye headed a trial team that secured $17 million for a family killed in a tractor-trailer accident.

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