Workers’ compensation is designed to ensure that employees injured on the job get the medical treatment they need and provide basic financial support while the worker recovers. It is a no-fault benefit, which means that the worker still collects benefits even when they are the negligent party. Workers’ compensation also benefits employers because it limits the injured worker’s ability to file a lawsuit against the employer. However, if a person or entity beyond the employer is responsible for the accident, victims injured at work are not restricted in their ability to file a personal injury lawsuit against those other people or entities. In this context, the other responsible parties are known as third parties and a lawsuit against them is typically referred to as a third party lawsuit.
Third parties are still liable
Third parties who contributed to or caused the injury do not have the same protections as the injured worker’s employer. So, a worker can file for workers’ comp benefits and then file a lawsuit against the person or company that injured them. Examples include:
- A contractor on the job injures the victim through negligence
- A manufacturer’s equipment causes injury to the victim because it did not function as designed
- A landlord or the employer’s premises created or allowed a dangerous condition on the property.
- A negligent driver crashes into the victim who is driving and on the clock
The employer’s workers’ compensation insurance company is entitled to a lien on all third party recoveries
Under New Jersey law, the insurance company that provided workers’ compensation benefits to the injured worked is entitled to recover 2/3 of what was paid in medical, temporary disability, and permanency benefits, minus a consideration of $750 for costs (despite the fact that third party lawsuits rarely, if ever, cost $750 or less to litigate). Third party lawsuits and workers’ compensation claims do not always resolve at the same time. The cases are filed in completely different court systems, and depending on the complexity of the case and the number of cases being heard by each court, often one claim is resolved before the other.
The interaction between workers’ compensation claims and third party lawsuits can be complicated based on the claims having different timetables and operating in different courts. The attorneys at Goldstein, Ballen, O’Rourke & Wildstein, P.C. have extensive experience in navigating all of the necessary courts involved for their clients. The workers’ compensation department is headed by partner James Koblin, who is certified by the New Jersey Supreme Court as a Workers’ Compensation attorney and the litigation department is headed by partner Thomas L. Bell, who is certified by the New Jersey Supreme Court as a Civil Trial Attorney. If you or a loved one have been injured, call 973-473-1113 to schedule your free consultation.