Third Party Claims
Workers who are injured on-the-job in Massachusetts are entitled to file a claim for workers’ compensation benefits.
However, as experienced work injury attorneys at The Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Glassman can explain, workers’ compensation may not be enough to fully compensate victims for their losses. In many work injury cases, there may exist a chance to pursue a third-party claim against other responsible parties.
Our law firm is dedicated to ensuring injured employees are granted swift, adequate workers’ compensation benefits and will also timely and properly seek action against third parties.
Although workers’ compensation claims do not require proof of employer negligence, third-party claims do. Workers have to show the responsible party owed a duty of care to the victim, that duty was breached and as a result, the plaintiff suffered injury.
Identifying third-party defendants often requires a legal team to conduct thorough research through interviews, experts, medical records and other investigation.
Third parties could be other contractors on the job site, building owners, general contractors, maintenance companies, other drivers and/or commercial trucking or driving firms. In some cases, government entities may be deemed partially responsible. It’s all dependent on individual circumstances, which must be carefully weighed by an experienced Boston worker's compensation attorney before determining how best to proceed.Third Party Claim vs. Workers’ Compensation Benefits
Workers’ compensation benefits serve a very important purpose in our country. It was part of a bargain struck between employers who faced constant, costly litigation for workplace injuries and employees who faced destitution if they couldn’t prove negligence.
The deal is this: Workers agree to give up the right to sue their employer, and in turn, employers provide swift coverage of medical bills and a portion of lost wages to workers who suffer an injury in the course and scope of employment.
But these benefits will generally only cover a portion of costs incurred by the worker, and they will not continue indefinitely. In cases of a workplace fatality, death benefits may be paid as well, and while those are important, they are often not enough. Consider too that workers’ compensation offers no coverage for pain and suffering. It’s only in a third-party legal action an injured worker and/or surviving family members can obtain such damages.
Beyond that, other responsible entities should not be able to avoid responsibility for what happened. So even though an injury may have resulted from a work-related accident, those third parties are not protected by the workers’ compensation immunity enjoyed by employers.
Bear in mind that in some cases, employer insurance companies may be entitled to a set-off from any third-party settlement or verdict. This possibility needs to be weighed with the strength and likely recovery of damages in your case.Examples of Third Party Lawsuits in Massachusetts
Monetary recovery for injured workers in third-party lawsuits is generally considerably higher than what workers would receive in a workers’ compensation settlement or award by the Massachusetts Department of Industrial Accidents.
Still, whether a third party can be held responsible will depend on a host of factors.
- Construction Sites. Although third-party accidents can result from any type of job-related injury, most on-the-job accidents occur on construction sites. Generally, trade workers (electricians, carpenters, roofers, laborers, etc.) are employed by subcontractors, who are hired by general contractors, who are hired by building owners. If a worker is injured by the negligent action of another subcontractor’s employees or by the failure of the property owner or general contractor to take certain action, a third-party lawsuit against those entities may be necessary.
- Defective products. Construction workers and laborers routinely work with heavy, dangerous equipment. Some of these products are inherently dangerous, and workers must use caution during use. However, sometimes, those products malfunction due to faulty design or poor manufacturing. In these cases, a third-party product liability lawsuit may be warranted.
- Auto accident. A trucker, professional driver or any worker traveling from one job site to another may pursue third-party action against the at-fault driver and that driver’s insurance company.
Bear in mind there is a statute of limitations on third-party injury cases. Work injury lawsuits against third parties must be filed within three years from the date of the accident. Failure to file within three years will likely result in forfeiture of any claims or rights a worker may have had against that party. There may be limited circumstances under which a worker can request the statute of limitations be tolled (extended), but generally, it’s best not to wait. Contacting an experienced injury attorney as soon as possible will help preserve your rights.
Contact the Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Glassman today for a free and confidential consultation.
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