Workers Compensation Claims
Third Party Claims for Work-Related Injuries
Black and Davison
In Pennsylvania, as in other states, when you are injured on the job, your first course of action will be typically to file a workers’ compensation claim. In many instances, it will be your exclusive remedy, meaning it will be the only method of recovery for your injuries. There are, however, situations where you won’t be limited to what you can recover through a workers’ compensation claim, and there may even be times where you can file a workers’ compensation and a personal injury lawsuit simultaneously. Here’s how it works.
One of the goals of state workers’ compensation laws—often referred to as the “great bargain,” is to provide a benefit for both workers and employers when a worker is hurt because of the carelessness or negligence of the employer. For a worker, there’s easier and quicker access to benefits, provided your claim is approved. For an employer, because the benefits are based on the worker’s wages, there’s no risk of an exorbitant damage award from an over-sympathetic jury.
The important thing to understand, though, is that workers’ compensation benefits are designed to cover situations where the employer or a co-employee was negligent. It does not limit your rights if your injury was caused by an unrelated third party. Some common situations where workers are hurt by the carelessness of an unrelated third party include:
- Where your injury was sustained in a motor vehicle accident involving an at-fault party who is neither your employer nor a co-worker
- Where your injury is caused by the malfunction, breakdown or negligent design of a tool, machine or other product
- Where your injury was caused by a person on an adjoining work site, or by an unrelated bystander or third party
It is possible, if your injury was caused in part by the carelessness of your employer or a co-employee, and in part by an unrelated third party, to simultaneously seek workers’ compensation benefits and damages in a personal injury lawsuit. It’s important to recognize, however, that you cannot recover twice for the same loss. For example, if your medical expenses were covered by workers’ compensation, you cannot recover for the same medical expenses in a lawsuit against a third party.