In New York when most workers are injured in a workplace accident, they are covered by their employer’s workers’ compensation insurance. The workers’ compensation system is a no-fault system, which means that injured workers can seek benefits regardless of their own fault or their employer’s fault. Not only that, but when injured workers file a workers’ compensation claim, they cannot file a separate lawsuit against their employers.
In some workers’ compensation cases, the injured or ill (in the case of occupational diseases) worker may be able to file what’s called a third party claim in addition to the workers’ compensation claim; however, third party lawsuits are not typically filed against the employer or a co-worker. Instead, they’re filed against another liable party, someone else who was legally responsible for the injurious accident.
EXAMPLES OF THIRD PARTY LIABILITY
Third party liability occurs when a worker is injured during the course of their work, but a third party is responsible for the accident. For example, let’s say a worker was driving as a part of his duties and he was in a car accident. In this case, he could collect workers’ compensation benefits but he can also file a personal injury claim against the at-fault driver, which would yield him additional compensation.
Another example is a construction worker who fell through an attic at a house he was working on. He could file a workers’ comp claim, but he could also file a claim against the property owner’s insurance company. Or, suppose a woman was bitten by a vicious dog while delivering flowers. She could collect workers’ comp from the florist she works for, but she can also file a third party claim against the dog’s owner, who was legally responsible for their dog’s behavior.
BENEFITS OF FILING A THIRD PARTY CLAIM
Monthly workers’ compensation benefits are less than what an employee would normally earn if they were not injured, so it makes sense for them to seek additional compensation when it’s available. Since workers’ comp benefits are limited, it’s highly beneficial for injured employees to file a third party claim if they have one.
Workers’ comp does not compensate workers for pain and suffering or punitive damages; therefore, if an injured worker files a third party claim, he or she may be entitled to noneconomic damages and sometimes even punitive damages through a third party claim.
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