Workers’ Comp and Third Party Claims: What You Need to Know
Footage from a Ring doorbell camera went viral recently when a UPS driver collapsed in extreme heat while attempting to deliver a package. In a statement, UPS said the employee was “fine” even though he was working in 110-degree temperatures. “UPS drivers are trained to work outdoors and for the effects of hot weather. Our employee used his training to be aware of his situation and contact his manager for assistance, who immediately provided assistance. Our package delivery vehicles make frequent stops, making air conditioning ineffective,” the statement added.
A 2019 investigation revealed that more than 100 UPS employees were hospitalized for serious heat-related injuries between 2015 and 2018. And while the company has heat protocols in place, some managers encouraged workers to keep going even when they were sick.
An injury at work can lead to difficult and sometimes life-altering complications for workers. Will they ever return to work, how will they pay for extended care and rehabilitation, and who will pay the bills while they recover?
Does workers’ compensation insurance protect you?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 2.9 million workers were injured in the workplace in 2016, and 4,764 died from those injuries. Over 50% of workers required time off because of an injury or illness, and workplace injuries cost employees, employers, and insurance companies more than $163 billion a year.
Workers’ compensation insurance is required of employers in 49 states to protect an injured employee while shielding employers from a lawsuit. In return, an injured worker (or family member) can file a claim to help with medical costs, disability benefits, lost wages, and death benefits, if applicable. Work-related injuries can include anything from chemical burns to repetitive stress damage.
But workers’ comp benefits may or may not cover all the necessary financial support for an injured worker. Employees should know exactly what their insurance covers and should not rule out possible third-party actions for additional financial support.
Workers’ compensation insurance vs. third-party liability claims
Many think that workers’ compensation is their only source of benefits if they have an on-the-job injury. While workers’ compensation is provided without regard to fault on the employee or employer’s part, there are situations where a negligent third party might be held responsible. Called a third-party claim, this legal action allows injured employees to seek additional compensation from the negligent party. Given the movement to cut workers’ compensation benefits in many states, a third-party claim may be critical to achieving full financial recovery from a devastating work injury. Types of third-party claims include:
- Equipment or manufacturer defects: The manufacturer may be held accountable when equipment malfunctions and causes an injury.
- Improper safety practices: An employee may work for one employer on a job involving other companies. If the second company should have and did not follow proper safety guidelines, it may be held liable for the accident.
- Premises liability: An injury sustained by a worker on someone else’s property due to a known danger may result in a third-party liability claim.
You should know what your workers’ comp insurance covers
Bottom line, workers’ compensation is limited. It does not cover noneconomic or punitive damages. Big bills can stack up quickly. If recklessness or negligence caused the injury, third-party claims might be one more path to justice.
Because these are often complicated legal issues, your best bet if injured at work – no matter how straightforward it looks – is to contact a personal injury lawyer. If you wish to discuss the specifics of your case in a free consultation with an experienced Tucson personal injury lawyer, please contact us today.