First, in most states, you cannot sue your employer for their negligence if it results in an injury. State governments have accepted that there needs to be a balance between worker’s rights and the need for businesses to keep the economy moving. If a co-worker makes a mistake that would constitute negligence and it causes you injury, then you may not sue the co-worker nor your employer. You do, however, have a no-fault back up for some compensation in the form of worker’s compensation benefits. Therefore, even if the injury was actually your own fault, worker’s compensation still steps in when you are hurt on the job.
The Department of Labor and Industries administers this program in Washington and the State is obliged to pay for the reasonable and necessary medical care that your need as well as a percentage of your lost wages. If your injury is serious, you may also receive a payment for the permanent partial disability incurred. If you are forced to retire as a result of the injuries, then the State may afford you a pension.
A “third party case” is one where you still get all of the above benefits because you were injured on the job, but you also have the right to seek compensation from the “third party” – not you and not your employer – for more money. While receiving money from the state for a permanent partial disability is a good thing to have, that amount is not one that is designed to ensure complete compensation for that injury. It is the same thing with lost wages, L&I pays only a percentage of the actual losses of the injured worker.
In cases where the injury is caused by a third party – such as a car accident that occurs while one is driving during the course and scope of their duties in their job and someone else rear-ends them on the freeway – then the right to obtain complete compensation, as well as those benefits under the worker’s compensation system – are available to the injured party.
Wiener & Lambka, PS has handled many worker’s compensation third party claims and we are ready to help you navigate the complexities of such cases. Our consultations are always free of charge. Please contact us.