Lever & Ecker, PLLC March 13, 2019 General
If you’ve been injured while working in New York, there’s a lot to know about your legal rights, which may include the right to workers’ compensation benefits.
Unlike most other personal injury claims, work accident claims in New York are subject to special rules that were created in the hopes of reducing the amount of litigation between employees and employers.
Under New York workers’ compensation law, an injured employee is eligible to receive certain benefits (including financial compensation) even if the employer wasn’t negligent, provided that the employee follows certain procedures and that his or her claim qualifies.
In other words, the employee doesn’t need to prove that the employer did anything wrong.
But the benefits available under New York’s workers compensation system are limited, and employees sometimes end up recovering much less money than they might have under traditional personal injury law.
Moreover, while employers typically carry insurance policies that will cover their workers’ injuries, these insurance companies are notorious for downplaying or denying victims’ claims.
An experienced New York workers’ comp lawyer can help victims fight back against unfair tactics by the insurance company or employer.
Still, getting full and fair compensation within the workers’ comp system sometimes remains a challenge.
Accordingly, injured workers often ask whether you have any rights outside the New York workers’ compensation system. The answer to that question depends on the specific circumstances surrounding the injury.
One possible path for seeking compensation outside the workers’ comp rules arises when there is third-party liability for the work accident claim. Below, we explain what third-party liability is, when it applies, and how it works.
Let’s begin our discussion by stating a general rule: in most New York work accident claims, workers’ comp is the victim’s exclusive remedy.
In other words, in most cases, employees can’t file a traditional personal injury lawsuit against their employer for work-related injuries. The only available remedy is a worker’s comp claim. Accordingly, this means injured employees generally can’t recover more money than the workers’ comp benefit limits allow.
There are, however, several key exceptions to this general rule. One of those exceptions is third-party liability.
If you are hurt at work and someone unrelated to your employment (that is, a third party) is at least partially at fault for your injuries, you may be able to file a traditional personal injury claim against the third party.
This third-party claim is entirely separate from any worker’s comp claim you might file. So while the work accident claim is subject to the rules and limitation of New York worker’s comp law, the third-party claim is not. This separate claim can proceed just like any other personal injury lawsuit would.
Note, however, that if you do recover money for your damages in a third-party lawsuit, the benefits available for your worker’s comp claim may be limited accordingly. Even in light of that fact, third-party claims often prove worthwhile, as the damages available to victims can sometimes be much greater under personal injury law than under worker’s comp law.
Third-party liability might arise in many different situations. No two cases are quite alike.
Below, we look at four of the most common examples of third-party liability in a work accident claim in New York:
If you are driving within the scope of your job duties and are injured by a third-party driver (i.e. someone outside of your company), you may be able to recover from that person’s insurance company (or your own no-fault insurance policy) while also filing a worker’s comp claim. This often arises in situations where employees are injured while making sales calls, transporting cargo for the company, or running work-related errands.
If you are injured on the job as a pedestrian and the at-fault party is someone outside the company you work for, you may be able to recover personal injury damages from the driver as well as worker’s comp benefits through your employer.
If you are injured while working on someone else’s property (for example, a private residence where you are making a sales call, or a third-party construction site) and the injury is caused by the property owner’s negligence, you may have a third-party claim against the owner. Common examples include: slip and fall accidents, negligent security claims, and injuries caused by dangerous property conditions.
Likewise, if you are hurt at your office or your usual place of business, you may be able to recover compensation directly from the property owner, provided that: (A) the owner’s negligence contributed to your injury and (B) the owner is someone other than your employer.
If you are injured on the job because of a dangerous or defective product, you may be able to recover compensation directly from the device’s manufacturer (in addition to your worker’s comp claim). In some cases, you may not even have to prove that the manufacturer was negligent. Common examples of defective products in the workplace include: dangerous chemicals, malfunctioning ladders, defective power tools, unsafe scaffolding, and so on.
In most circumstances, the answer is no.
An exception might apply in a situation where, for example, you are driving for work and are in a collision with a car driven by your supervisor or a co-worker. If that person was also driving within the scope of his or her job duties, you could not bring a third-party claim. But if he or she was driving in their individual capacity, entirely unconnected to their job, you may be able to bring a third-party claim against that person individually (in which case his or her own auto insurance policy may be liable for your damages).
This is only an example. If you believe you may have a third-party claim against a co-worker or supervisor, don’t hesitate to contact our office and talk about your situation with a New York work accident attorney.
If you’ve been injured on the job in New York and someone outside your company contributed to the injury, you may be entitled to more compensation than you realize. These claims are complex, however, so we encourage you to discuss your situation in detail with an experienced New York work accident attorney as soon as possible. Lever & Ecker, PLLC can help.
Get started with a free, confidential consultation today. We will not charge a fee for our services unless and until we get you money. Call 914-288-9191 or simply contact us online right away.