In California, many employees know that if they get hurt on the job, filing a workers’ compensation claim is their exclusive recourse against their employer. It is well established that you can’t sue your employer in court for an on-the-job injury. But when a third party contributes to your work-related accident or illness, you may have a right to file a civil suit in addition to your workers’ comp claim.
Examples of third-party liability
Every day at work, you could be involved in an accident that triggers third-party liability for your claim.
- The company car you use could have a design defect that causes an accident.
- Chemicals at your workplace could cause burns or blindness.
- The tools and machinery you use at work could malfunction and injure you.
In each of these cases, you may be able to recover damages against a third party in a civil claim that is not subject to the limitations of a workers’ compensation claim.
Employer’s right to reimbursement
The California Labor Code gives your employer the right to be reimbursed for amounts paid to you under your workers’ compensation claim if you recover money from a third party. The law prevents workers from “double dipping” — collecting twice for a single injury.
You may be wondering why you would file a civil suit if your employer is going to get the money. Imagine a case where you are severely injured in an accident involving faulty industrial machinery, and your recovery from your employer tops out at $100,000. You file a civil suit and discover that the equipment manufacturer knew the machine that injured you was defective but decided not to warn you or your employer about the defect. You could recover enough money in punitive damages in the civil suit to repay your employer and still have enough money left to cover your care for the rest of your life.
Balancing the pros and cons of a third-party claim requires thorough legal analysis. Let the skilled professionals at TorkLaw help you understand the advantages and disadvantages involved in your personal injury claim.