When one is injured at work, we naturally look to the employer to recover. After all, we all know about worker’s compensation, so we expect that to kick in. However, as more-and-more injured employees are realizing, employers are not always solely responsible.
Who else can be responsible?
Think about how the injury occurred. Was it a simple slip and fall from an unsafe work environment, or did something or someone else injure the worker? For example, was the worker assaulted, or did a machine malfunction and injury the worker? In either scenario, while the employee could file a worker’s compensation claim because the injury occurred at work, there would still be third-party liability for that workplace injury. After all, the assaulter and manufacturer caused the injuries, and they both incur liability as a result.
While workers’ compensation coverage varies by one’s occupation and state of residency, the one commonality is that it is intended to be one’s exclusive remedy. But, where the confusion occurs is that this exclusive remedy is for the employer, not the employee. In other words, the employee’s exclusive remedy against the employer is workers’ compensation, not for all responsible parties. This is why third-party liability can be such an important part of an injured worker’s recovery path.
What about the employer?
A logical question would then be, what about the employer? How are they involved in these third-party claims? This really depends on where the lawsuit takes place because third-party claims can arise from parties in various states, even other countries. In some states, the employer can join the employee’s lawsuit. More commonly though, if they incurred liability, either through workers’ compensation or some other payout, they can sue that third party directly. Though, in some states, they are only able to recover by placing a lien on the employee’s recovery, should they receive one. This is where an attorney can become a great source of information and clarification.
For San Diego, California, residents and those throughout metro area, the key takeaway for injured workers and their families is that there are options. Looking at just one’s employer may get someone whole again, but often, it takes going after all responsible parties to get one’s life back on track.