What is Third-Party Liability in Workers’ Compensation Cases?
When a worker is injured on the job, Workers’ Compensation insurance provides compensation for the lost income and covers ongoing medical needs. This insurance package, thankfully, is mandatory at almost all workplaces in New Jersey, save worksites where federal or union agreements offer similar benefits and offers a lifeline during a difficult period for the worker and their family.
Workers’ Compensation is designed to minimize the impact of a work injury, illness or accident on both the worker and the employer. It is essentially a compromise between the two very different needs. It is also a contract: the worker agrees not to sue the employer, regardless of who is at fault; in exchange for receiving the Workers’ Compensation insurance package.
The employer agrees to cover the premiums of the Workers’ Compensation package so that in the event of an accident, the worker has medical bills covered and continues to receive income while recuperating. The employer agrees to do so regardless of why the accident occurred, even if the employee caused the accident. That agreement between employer and worker needs can mean the injured worker does not receive the benefits they need from Workers’ Compensation.
For example, while Workers’ Compensation will pay out roughly two-thirds of the worker’s salary – generally about 60 percent – that amount is likely to leave a utility bill unpaid, to make mortgage and rent payments difficult, or make it difficult to afford groceries when all the other bills are paid.
In many cases, the injured worker and their family often wind up needing more than Workers’ Compensation allots. Depending on the seriousness of the injury and the length of recovery time, this could mean a long period of financial struggle.
Third-Party Suits Do Not Impact Workers’ Compensation
Because New Jersey mandates almost all employers to offer Workers’ Compensation Insurance, it is very likely that the worker immediately signed paperwork for it on the first day of work, even if they don’t remember doing so.
Accepting the Workers Compensation insurance is a contract between the worker and the employer, so workers do not want to file suit against the employer for additional compensation.
This is where a third-party liability suit may help the worker get needed compensation during recovery. The third-party suit will be a separate matter from the Workers’ Compensation claim.
Many third-party liability suits are aimed at the manufacturer, retailer, distributor, installer or designer of a product or device that malfunctioned at the job site, causing the injury.
Here are a couple of possible examples of a malfunctioning product or device:
- A chemical leaks out of its container, causing illness to workers nearby.
- A ladder step breaks off when a worker is descending, causing a fall.
- A construction worker falls off scaffolding at a job site.
- An assembly line device is inappropriately installed and grabs a worker’s fingers, injuring the workers’ hand.
This could be a problem with the package design; an error in the manufacturing process, or a problem that occurred between manufacture and getting to the consumer, which would mean the distributor or retailer would be targeted in the suit, or it could be that nothing was wrong with the product, but it was installed incorrectly.
There are all kinds of jobs, and unfortunately, all kinds of ways to get hurt while working. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), increasing numbers of work accidents involve motor vehicles.
The injured worker might be an insurance sales manager who was driving to visit a client and was hit by a drunk driver on the way; or a nurse who was waiting for an emergency patient in the parking lot when she was struck by a hospital visitor.
With cases such as a person being struck by a driver off-site from the workplace while working, there is a possibility that the Workers’ Compensation claim will not go through. A third-party case can get needed compensation in such cases to cover the cost of medical care and lost wages.
When a Worker Dies from the Accident?
One of the benefits included in a Workers’ Compensation Insurance package is a death benefit for the surviving family members. This is designed to offset the cost of funerals and the loss of a loved one, but like other Workers’ Compensation benefits it is minimal.
A third-party liability case provides the loved one of a worker who died as a result of a faulty product or device on the job site, a method to get compensation for the loss that does not target the deceased worker’s employer, or impact the Workers’ Compensation package.
How a Third-Party Liability Suit Works?
Unlike Workers’ Compensation Insurance, which is essentially no-fault coverage for job site injuries or illnesses, a third-party liability suit requires proving that the third party was at fault, either by wrongful acts or omitting necessary information to avoid accidents.
To do so, the injured person needs to prove duty, breach of duty, cause of the injury and damages, meaning medical bills, lost time at work, etc.
Because there are so many players involved in the process of getting a product or device from a design room into a workplace, there are several possible third-party suits. As mentioned before, the suit could target the designer, the manufacturer, the distributor, the retailer, or the installer. It could also target all of these parties.
If the case is made against a product manufacturer, a strict liability claim is possible. Strict liability claims can hold a product manufacturer liable just by proving that there was a defect and that it caused the plaintiff’s harm.
Piscataway Worker’s Compensation Lawyers at the Law Offices of Harold J. Gerr Can Help!
Injured workers and their families often need more compensation than Workers’ Compensation Insurance will provide. Our Piscataway Workers’ Compensation lawyers at the Law Offices of Harold J. Gerr have experience dealing with the Workers’ Compensation system as well as third-party liability cases and can help guide injured workers through the process. To schedule a private meeting with one of the firm’s attorneys, call the Highland Park offices at 877-249-4600 or fill out our online form. The firm proudly serves clients in New Brunswick, Somerset, Piscataway, Edison, Fords, Middlesex, South River, Sayreville, Metuchen, Old Bridge, Iselin, Bound Brook, Perth Amboy, Colonia, Elizabeth and Newark.