There’s More to Worker’s Compensation

April 16, 2014 | By R. Brendan Dummigan of Pickett Dummigan LLP

Worker’s compensation is an exchange of legal rights between an employer and an employeeWorker’s compensation is an exchange of legal rights between an employer and an employee that is usually required by law. The laws for worker’s compensation may vary from state to state, but the application is similar. Generally, workers who are injured on the job can qualify for worker compensation benefits. When a worker qualifies, the employer is required to pay medical expenses and wage loss for the injured employee. In exchange, the employee loses the right to sue the employer for the harm that was caused.

Although worker’s compensation can meet the needs of some injured workers, others are left feeling unsatisfied because of the limited recovery. Many injured workers find that losing the enjoyment of life is far more devastating than being unable to work. Having leg surgery paid off may not be worth the value of never being able to walk again. In order to get full justice for victims, it is important to look beyond worker’s compensation and investigate who may be responsible for the injury.

Worker’s compensation only protects the employer from legal liability; it does not protect other parties for any negligence that contributed to the injury. For example: a construction worker may get his arm broken by a defective crane. The worker loses the right to sue his employer because of worker’s compensation; but still has a right to sue the manufacturer of the defective crane and the company who was responsible for repairing and maintaining the crane. The worker may also have claims against the general contractor of the project. By finding other negligent parties, an injured worker may be able to file a lawsuit to recover the costs of having their lives permanently altered.

For these reasons, it is important to discover what happened at the scene of the accident. There are sometimes multiple factors involved that create a dangerous situation. Some common “third-parties” responsible for injuries include:

Other Workers – Many construction sites have multiple contractors working on a project. The employer may be protected by worker’s compensation, but other contractors could still be legally responsible for harm caused.

Supervisors – General contractors have a responsibility to supervise a worksite and make sure that subcontractors are following safety protocols. If they don’t, the supervising authority may be liable even though it was the subcontractor that screwed up.

Defective Products – Manufacturers of equipment may be the real culprit for why an injury happened. Other companies who repaired or maintained the equipment may also be responsible for failing to keep the equipment safe.

Code Violations/ Dangerous Premises – There are many rules that require worksites to be cleaned and organized in certain ways. If fall protection is not provided and results in someone getting hurt, the person responsible for maintaining the premises may be responsible, ie. the general contractor. The landowner may also be responsible if the land had dangerous conditions that attributed to the injury.

Intentional/Reckless Harm – Worker’s compensation does not protect employers from intentional or reckless harm. Reckless harm can also be defined as deliberate indifference. If an injury is the product of deliberate indifference, the employer could be liable for their bad act.

Discovering everyone involved in an accident can be a big step to getting full and fair compensation that the injured worker deserves. It is always best to check with an attorney because many of these “third-party” claims have legal rules and regulations that are very specific. Regardless, an attorney will be able to help you discover viable claims and help you along the road to recovery.

The attorneys at Pickett Dummigan LLP specialize in workplace injuries and we have decades of experience pursuing negligent parties who try to hide behind the shield of worker’s compensation. If you have been injured in a workplace accident, contact us for a toll free consultation at 503.405.8037.

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