If you were injured in a motor vehicle collision during the course and scope of your employment, it’s likely that you’re eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. We might see this in the context of somebody who is delivering parts for an auto parts store or a nurse who travels to the homes of several patients a day. Under these circumstances, liability is irrelevant so long as the parts delivery driver or traveling nurse was injured during the course and scope of their employment by a foreseeable risk of that employment. Even a single vehicle accident with 100 percent of the liability being attributable to the parts delivery driver or nurse would be compensable.
What compensation is available?
In a workers’ compensation claim, the general rule is that three types of compensation are available. Those include payment for:
- All reasonable medical bills in connection with the accident
- Temporary total disability for the employee’ recovery time after the crash
- Permanent partial disability if the injury is permanent
Other forms of workers’ compensation benefits are available in a minority of cases. What comes to issue is that most workers compensation benefits are limited. They don’t contemplate other damages that a jury is allowed to consider in a personal injury or wrongful death case.
The sole and exclusive remedy
The injured employee and his or her employer are the two parties to a workers’ compensation claim. That workers’ compensation claim is ordinarily the employee’s sole and exclusive legal remedy when he or she is injured on the job.
Injuries caused by third parties
An exception to the sole and exclusive remedy law arises when the employee’s injury was caused by a careless and negligent third party. Under those circumstances, the injured parts delivery driver or traveling nurse can bring both a workers’ compensation claim and a personal injury lawsuit in a civil court of law to obtain compensation for their injuries.
Damages in the third party negligence case
In a civil personal injury case, other damages on top of those allowed by a workers’ compensation claim are allowed. Two of those types of damages include pain and suffering and loss of a normal life. These might be awarded for the duration of an accident victim’s life expectancy. They can make a civil personal injury case for a leg fracture requiring surgery far more valuable than a workers’ compensation award for the same injury, especially if no fault for the accident is attributable to the party claiming injury.
Fault in third party claims
Sometimes the person claiming injuries from a motor vehicle collision is partially at fault for his or her own injuries. That partial fault can be raised as an affirmative defense by the person who is claimed to be liable for the accident. That’s known as the law of comparative negligence, and if a person is found to be partially at fault for an accident, the percentage of fault attributable to him or her is deducted from their award. For example, if a person is awarded $100,000 in a civil personal injury case, and he or she was determined to be 25 percent at fault, the net award would be $75,000. Any possible issues involving comparative fault must be considered in deciding whether to bring a third party action in a civil court.
Keeping your family up and running
A serious leg fracture with resulting surgery, physical therapy and rehab might keep somebody out of work for several months. The benefits of worker’s compensation laws are that reasonably necessary medical bills would be paid on a timely basis. Temporary total disability would also be paid while the victim is recovering and still treating. Workers’ compensation benefits operate to keep that injured person’s family up and running during an interim that would otherwise be a financial disaster.
The workers’ compensation lien
The law doesn’t allow a person to have two awards for one injury. That would amount to a double recovery. An employer or its insurance company will ordinarily maintain a lien or right of reimbursement over any proceeds derived from the third party action. For example, if you’re awarded $240,000 in a civil court for that leg fracture case, your employer or its insurer must be reimbursed from that $240,000 for the medical bills and temporary total disability that it paid you. It’s highly likely that you’d still be far ahead financially, even if you were awarded permanent partial disability.
Both workers’ compensation and personal injury are highly complex areas of the law. After being injured in any auto accident, contact us right away for a free consultation and case evaluation. You don’t need any money to retain us. We only get paid if we obtain a settlement or verdict on your behalf.