Third-Party Claims for Workplace Injuries
In 1929, the General Assembly created the North Carolina Industrial Commission, which is responsible for administration of the North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Act. All employees have a right to a work environment that is safe. The North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Act is in place to compensate injured workers; however, in certain situations a claim against a third party for a workplace injury may be warranted.
At Rhine Law Firm, P.C., we work on behalf of clients to make sure that they receive the maximum compensation available. Our experienced Wilmington work injury attorneys understand how to deliver results.
Differences Between Workers’ Comp and Third-Party Claims
Compensation from a third-party claim is generally higher than from workers’ comp. Compensation in worker’s comp is more limited, and does not provide for many of the non-economic damages that a third-party claim may, such as pain and suffering. Third-party claims may also have awards for punitive damages in instances of willful or malicious conduct. If a third-party claim results in a settlement or award for the employee, his/her employer may be eligible for reimbursement of workers’ comp benefits.
Examples of Potential Third-Party Liability
- Negligence by a third party: Employee on a construction site working for one subcontractor is injured by the negligent action or omission of the general contractor or another subcontractor on the site.
- Vehicle accident: Employee driving a work vehicle is hit by a negligent driver. Workers’ comp would be available; however, a separate personal injury case against the negligent driver is possible.
- Hazard on property: An employee is bitten by the property owner’s dog while working on-site.
- Equipment failure: A worker is injured due to a faulty piece of safety equipment made by a third party manufacturer.
- Non-employer supervisor negligence: A third-party project manager is managing the construction site when a worker is injured by a hazardous condition.
- Public utility failure: A worker is injured after being electrocuted by an electric utility line that was not properly maintained.
Possible Third-Party Actions
- Against Other Employers: At job sites with workers from more than one employer, possible defendants may include these types of employers:
- Creating: Employer who caused the dangerous condition.
- Exposing: Employer whose employees were exposed to condition.
- Correcting: Employer working at the same job-site as exposing employer with shared responsibility.
- Controlling: An employer with overall (general) supervisory responsibilities for the site and safety/health violations.
- Due to OSHA Violations
- Willful: When an employer purposefully disregards or is indifferent about their duties to comply with workplace safety.
- Serious: When the violation that exists could easily result in death or catastrophic injury.
- Repeated: An employer who has been previously cited for the same or similar violations.
The Most Common Osha Violations
These 10 OSHA standards are the ones most commonly broken by employers. In order of rank, they are:
- Requirement to provide fall protection systems.
- Scaffolding requirements.
- Control of hazardous energy (when unexpected machine start-ups could harm employees).
- Ladders requirements.
- General requirements for all machinery and machine guarding.
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What Might Happen in a Claim?
After a third-party claim is filed, the worker’s employer may apply a lien on any potential settlement or verdict award for damages that the employee receives. Meanwhile, the third party in a claim may try to prove that the employer was also negligent to some degree in the matter. The third party may avoid paying a portion of the settlement or verdict equal to the percent of negligence that the employer contributed in the incident. These employer/third-party liability scenarios are subject to determination by a jury, so speak to an attorney to create a strong case.
During the initial 12 months after an accident, the employee is the only party who may take action against a third party. If the employee fails to take action, the employer may jointly pursue a claim in the following 22 months. During the final two months of the 36-month statute of limitations, the employee is the only party that may bring a lawsuit.
In some situations, workers’ compensation insurance will (or should) cover an injury or illness, providing for lost income and medical treatment on a temporary or permanent basis, depending on the situation. If you have a legitimate workers’ compensation claim or if you have had a claim denied, our attorneys can help you plan your next steps.
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