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How a third party’s liability can affect workers’ compensation

On Behalf of | Mar 6, 2024 | Workers' Compensation

Workplace injuries can have an outsized impact on a person’s life. Beyond the medical bills and treatments, an injured person might also cope with persistent pain and emotional harm.

While workers’ compensation helps cover a substantial part of damages, it has limitations. However, workers’ comp might not be the only recourse in the situation. The injured employee might be able to bring a case against a third party who also has liability.

When a workplace injury warrants an additional claim

The dual capacity doctrine allows for circumstances when an injured worker can file additional claims beyond workers’ comp after a workplace accident. One application of this is when someone other than the employer contributes to the injury, as the New Jersey Revised Statutes outlines in Title 34:15-40.

For example, a defective product that a third-party vendor supplies might be the cause of an on-the-job injury. This could allow the injured worker to file a personal injury claim against that vendor. Similarly, a contractor’s negligence could lead to an accident at the workplace. Consequently, the injured worker may have grounds for a personal injury claim against the contractor.

In such cases, the claimant must establish that the third party’s actions or products directly contributed to the injury. Furthermore, receiving compensation from one claim can affect the amount of compensation a person receives from the other. Therefore, a comprehensive understanding of the situation and the law is necessary to maximize the recovery of damages.

The differences between what a person can claim in each suit

A benefit of workers’ comp is it provides a streamlined process for obtaining benefits without the need to prove fault. Still, it might offer less overall compensation than a successful personal injury case. Workers’ comp typically covers medical expenses that relate to the injury, a portion of lost wages, vocational rehabilitation and possibly permanent disability benefits.

Workers’ comp generally does not include compensation for pain and suffering or emotional distress. Additionally, workers’ comp benefits are often subject to specific statutory limitations and may not fully cover all losses that the injured worker suffers. In contrast, a plaintiff can typically claim various noneconomic damages in a personal injury case.

Understanding these distinctions is helpful for injured individuals who are seeking appropriate compensation for workplace injuries and losses. In many circumstances, a personal injury suit is advisable in addition to a workers’ comp claim to recover full damages.