In New Jersey, workers' compensation insurance provides workers three primary benefits if they are injured on the job: 1) paid medical benefits; 2) temporary disability; and 3) permanency benefits.
The tradeoff for receiving these no-fault benefits is that injured workers may not sue their employer for negligence in causing the work injuries.
Under certain circumstances, however, injured workers may pursue legal claims against other people and companies who caused the work injuries. This is called "third-party liability."
Understanding Third-Party Liability
There are many work accident scenarios where third-party liability may apply. These are just a few examples:
- Defective Equipment - If a worker is injured on the job due to defective equipment, they would not only be eligible for workers' compensation benefits, but could also potentially sue the designer, manufacturer, maintainer, distributor, etc. of the defective equipment or machine that caused their injuries.
- Subcontractors - If a worker is injured on the job due to the acts or omissions of a subcontractor, the worker may be able to maintain a workers' compensation claim and also sue the subcontractor for pain, suffering, disability and other damages.
- Property Owners - If a worker is injured due to a hazardous condition on a poorly maintained job site, they may be able to bring a third-party claim against the owner and maintainer of the property.
- Car Accidents - A worker's job duties may include driving from location to location. If an injury is sustained as an operator or passenger of a motor vehicle, the injured worker may not only be entitled to workers' compensation benefits, but may also be able to pursue a third-party claim against the at-fault driver who caused the accident.
Why Third-Party Liability is Important
When damages caused by an accident exceed the benefits provided by workers' compensation, the ability to pursue additional compensation in a third-party claim is very important. Some of the restrictions and limitations imposed by workers' compensation include the following:
- Medical Care - As part of a workers' compensation claim, injured workers are required to visit doctors selected by the employer's insurance company.
- Pain and Suffering - Workers' compensation does not provide benefits for non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering. In a third-party claim, you can seek compensation for a variety of non-economic damages, including pain, suffering, disability, impairment and loss of enjoyment of life.
- Wrongful Death - Workers' compensation death benefits are available to dependents of deceased workers. However, potential compensation available in a third-party wrongful death lawsuit is much broader and wide-ranging.
Third-Party Lawsuit vs. Workers' Compensation
It is not necessary to prove negligence as part of a workers' compensation claim. If you were hurt on the job, regardless of how the injury occurred, workers' compensation should be available to you. In third-party injury claims, on the other hand, the plaintiff must prove that the injury was caused by someone else's negligence.
Third-party lawsuits are often more time consuming and costly. The individual must be prepared to be deposed and participate in more lengthy and involved case discovery. Workers' compensation claims are slightly less demanding insofar as the injured worker need not establish the liability of their employer - they only need to show that they were injured on the job in order to receive benefits.
Workers' compensation claims and third-party lawsuits go hand-in-hand. By pursuing a workers' compensation claim and a third-party lawsuit for a single work accident, injured workers and their families are able to seek the full amount of compensation that they are entitled to.
If you've sustained a work injury in New Jersey, it is important to understand your rights and options. The Reinartz law firm has many years of experience with both workers' compensation claims and third-party personal injury lawsuits. We can explain the avenues available to you, and pursue all available compensation under New Jersey law. Contact us today for a free consultation.