Cross & Smith LLC


Workers’ Compensation and Claims Against Third Parties

May 31, 2023 - Workers' Compensation/Work Injury by

Workers’ compensation is a form of insurance that is available to workers that are injured while fulfilling their employment duties. It provides the injured worker with monetary compensation and medical care for their injuries or sickness. In exchange, the worker is not allowed to sue their employer for their injury or sickness. However, there is no prohibition on an injured or sick worker bringing a claim against a third party that causes their injury or illness. The good news for injured and sick workers is that they may be able to recover the compensation they are due through the workers’ compensation claim as well as the monies they are owed from the third party. When this happens, a Tuscaloosa workers’ compensation attorney at Cross & Smith, LLC, can help recover the amount owed to the injured worker by the third party as well as the employer.

The ability to recover under both claims is especially beneficial as workers’ compensation in Alabama typically only pays two-thirds of the amount that the worker was receiving as pay prior to the injury occurring (in addition to all medical costs and expenses). 

Examples of Third-Party Claims

Third-party claims can arise in a number of situations. For example, if a receptionist leaves her physical place of employment to make a deposit at a local bank, and on the way there is rear-ended by a drunk driver, they may be able to pursue the drunk driver for the damages they have sustained. The receptionist would be able to pursue this claim against the drunk driver even though they were acting in their employment capacity as the drunk driver is a third party. 

Another example would be if a worker at a construction site is injured by a defective piece of machinery. Even though they were acting in their employment capacity, they may be able to pursue a lawsuit against the manufacturer of the piece of equipment that caused their injury. A Tuscaloosa workers’ compensation attorney at Cross & Smith, LLC, can determine whether or not the manufacturer should be held liable in this scenario. 

If that same construction worker was not injured by a defective piece of machinery but was instead hit by a third-party contractor operating a bulldozer, they may have a claim against the worker driving the bulldozer or their employer since they do not work for the same company as the injured party. 

Finally, take for example a carpet installer that is installing new carpet in a home. If the homeowner has an aggressive animal and allows that animal to have access to the carpet installer and they bite the installer, the installer will not be limited to obtaining compensation from just their employer. There are various other potential defendants that their Tuscaloosa workers’ compensation attorney can consider filing suit against, including the homeowner and the homeowner’s insurance company. 

The key in all of these cases is to look and see if the injury or illness suffered by the worker was caused by someone or an entity other than their employer. If it was, then they may be able to pursue a third-party claim against that party. Oftentimes, however, a skilled Tuscaloosa workers’ compensation attorney is able to determine potential defendants that may otherwise be overlooked.

Damages Available In Third-Party Claims

Claims against third parties are not subject to the same limitations as claims against an employer. Because of this, an injured or sick worker may be able to recover various types of compensation, including those listed below. For clarity on all damages available to them, a worker should speak with a Tuscaloosa workers’ compensation attorney at Cross & Smith, LLC.

Economic Damages

Economic damages are also known as compensatory damages and include different types of financial losses experienced by the injured party. This can include:

  • Medical Bills: Injured parties often have substantial medical bills, such as bills for the cost of surgery, medications, therapies, blood tests, and hospital stays. 
  • Lost Wages: If the injured party has missed work, they should be able to recover for their lost wages.
  • Lost Future Earnings: An injured worker may not be able to work at all in the future, or their earning potential may be greatly diminished. When this happens, they may be able to recover the amount of their lost future earnings. 
  • Property Damages: An injured party may be able to recover for any property that was damaged when the injury occurred.

Non-Economic Damages

Non-economic damages are often referred to as general damages. These damages are more difficult to prove than economic damages as they are more subjective in nature. They may consist of:

  • Pain & Suffering: When the injury or illness suffered by the worker causes them pain and causes them to suffer, they may be able to recover compensation for it. Proving the existence of pain and suffering and what it is worth can be difficult and is best left to a Tuscaloosa workers’ compensation attorney.
  • Mental Distress: If the worker suffered a physical injury, they may be able to recover for the mental distress caused by the physical injury.  
  • Loss of Consortium: Injured workers may be able to recover for the loss of relationships due to an injury as well. This can include sexual relations as well as companionship, company, and society. 

Punitive Damages

Punitive damages, although rare, may be awarded in certain situations “where it is proven by clear and convincing evidence that the defendant consciously or deliberately engaged in oppression, fraud, wantonness, or malice with regard to the plaintiff.” Unlike economic and non-economic damages, punitive damages are used to punish the wrongdoer and discourage them and others from engaging in the same type of behavior in the future. A Tuscaloosa workers’ compensation attorney is the best resource to determine whether or not a personal injury warrants punitive damages. 

Speak With A Tuscaloosa Workers’ Compensation Attorney At Cross & Smith, LLC

When you have been injured on the job, you need counsel you can depend on to help you determine the compensation you are owed. At Cross & Smith, LLC, a seasoned Tuscaloosa workers’ compensation attorney will review your case with you and advise you on the options available to you. Contact us today to learn more.

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Posted By: Chuck Kelley

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