Workers Compensation in Personal Injury Cases
Imagine that you are working at a construction site removing the shackle from a girder when the crane operator prematurely lifts the boom crushing your right dominant hand. The crane operator works for a company that is not your employer. What rights do you have? If you are injured at work, worker’s compensation likely will govern your recovery and how that recovery will happen. In some cases, there is additional third-party negligence liability, particularly for Ohio injuries. Here’s more information. If you were injured, call 419-900-0955 for a free consultation with an injury lawyer from our team.
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What is Worker's Compensation?
In most states, workers’ compensation benefits will be provided to you through your employer. Those benefits will include both payments of medical bills and a portion of your lost wages. There can also be future settlements of your claims based on a procedure laid out in State law. These benefits are provided to you irrespective of fault unless you caused your own injuries. There only has to be an employer/employee relationship. Once that is established, workers compensation in Ohio, for example, limits the ability to sue the person or organization that caused your injury. But in our example above, what about the crane operator and her company?
Third Party Negligence in Workers Compensation Claims
Even though you are collecting benefits under the workers’ compensation system, the law in most states allows you to also make a claim against the crane operator and her company under a third-party negligence theory. The operator was allegedly negligent in operating the crane. Say the evidence proves they lifted the boom prematurely causing injury to your hand. The case can proceed like a common law personal injury case not limited by workers compensation rules. In such cases, State law will govern but generally, the victim must prove all the traditional elements of negligence; duty, breach, causation and damages. If the facts support these elements, then you can potentially receive compensation from the company’s insurance company which will not be barred by workers compensation statutes. Many of these companies, however, are self-insured, which means it will pay your damages out of their assets.
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Workers Compensation Subrogation
So yes, you can recover against a third party in some cases even if you are injured at work. There is only one caveat. Out of any settlement or jury award, the victim will have to pay back the bureau of workers’ compensation lien. That means their attorney will need to get a final balance from the bureau which will include past as well as future benefits. If they don’t get paid back, they might file a potential lawsuit filed by the attorney general. The claim can also be compromised and a good attorney should try to negotiate the cost lower. This principle is known as either subrogation or right of reimbursement. The doctrine allows the workers’ compensation bureau to recover its payments from the negligent party. In our example case, the negligent party is the crane operator and her company. It is a great benefit that employees have the workers’ compensation fund to assist in the payment of medical bills and wage loss. As such, victims may need to look into negligence against any third parties involved for reimbursement of liens and pain and suffering. If they do not pursue the case, then they would not have to pay back the workers’ compensation lien. If the lien is paid, however, the injured victim will typically still be able to receive additional future benefits without having to further reimburse the bureau. This area of law is incredible complex and we strongly advise you to call an injury lawyer for a free consultation at 419-900-0955 if you were injured at work but a third party was involved.
Dennis P. Sawan
Licensed in Ohio and Georgia
Christopher A. Sawan
Licensed in Ohio and Michigan