Work-related injuries are handled differently under the law than other personal injury claims. When an accident happens in the course of your job duties, your right to recover compensation is generally limited to the state workers’ compensation system.
As a general rule, you can’t file a personal injury lawsuit based on negligence. Your only option is to file a claim with your employer’s insurance carrier in order to recover the benefits allowed under New York workers’ comp laws.
Unfortunately, those benefits are relatively limited. Injured employees are sometimes left with far less compensation than they might have recovered from a conventional personal injury claim.
There are, however, exceptions to this general rule. One of the most notable exceptions is called 3rd party liability.
So what is 3rd party liability in a workers’ comp case? When does it allow you to file a conventional personal injury claim? And is it ever possible to sue your employer directly after a job-related injury?
The answers to these questions can be complex, which is why we’ve put together a general overview in the sections that follow. It will help you understand the legal framework for your rights in a variety of situations.
That said, we strongly encourage any injured worker in New York to contact our office and schedule a free consultation with the experienced New York personal injury lawyers at O’Connor and Partners right away.
What Is 3rd Party Liability in a Workers’ Comp Case?
3rd party liability exists when you are injured in the course of your job duties but the accident happens because of a third party’s negligence. (In other words, the person who causes your accident is not employed by your employer at the time of the accident.)
In these cases, you are able to file a personal injury claim directly against the third party or their insurance company.
Examples of 3rd party liability situations include:
- While driving a company car for work, you get into a car crash caused by a drunk driver who doesn’t work for your same company.
- You get electrocuted on the job site because another subcontractor or electrician leaves live wires exposed.
- Your co-worker intentionally assaults you.
- Your employer sends you to perform work inside someone’s home. The homeowner gets angry and assaults you.
- One of the tools, machines, products, or chemicals you use at work causes you injury as a result of a defect or breach of warranty (in which case you may have a products liability claim against the manufacturer).
Can I File a 3rd Party Liability Claim and a Workers’ Comp Claim in New York?
Yes. 3rd party liability claims proceed entirely separately from any workers’ comp claim you might file. It is not uncommon for employees who are injured in the course of their job duties by a third party to end up recovering workers’ comp benefits and personal injury compensation.
If you do succeed in recovering financial compensation from your personal injury claim against the third party, it is possible that your workers’ comp benefits will be limited as a result. Nevertheless, the 3rd party liability claim may prove to be more advantageous than a workers’ comp claim would have been on its own.
The Kingston workers’ comp lawyers at O’Connor and Partners can help you understand the benefits and compensation that might be available in your particular situation.
Is It Ever Possible to Sue My Employer for a Work-Related Injury in New York?
In most cases, it is not possible to sue your own employer for a work-related injury in New York. The victim’s employer typically does not qualify as a “third party” for purposes of filing a 3rd party liability claim.
There are, however, certain situations in which an injured employee can step outside the usual workers’ comp restrictions and file a personal injury lawsuit against their employer directly. Examples of such situations include:
- Your employer doesn’t carry workers’ comp insurance. (In these situations, you may be able to get some limited financial assistance from a state fund set up to help injured workers. You are also able to file a separate personal injury claim against the employer directly.)
- Your injury happens because your employer is grossly negligent. A showing of gross negligence requires much more than ordinary negligence and must be supported by evidence. In this situation, you can bring a personal injury claim against the employer directly while also filing a workers’ comp claim.
- Your employer assaults you. Here again, you can file a personal injury claim directly against the employer while also filing a workers’ comp claim. (Note, however, that if the employer is acting in self-defense, you may lose your right to recover benefits.)
Free & Confidential Consultation with Our NY Workers’ Comp Lawyers
There’s a lot to know about the topic of 3rd party liability in a workers’ comp case. While we have provided a general overview in this article, every situation is different. The details matter. There may be other rules or exceptions that apply. The best way to understand your rights and options after a work-related accident is to schedule a confidential consultation with an attorney as soon as possible.
O’Connor and Partners is a personal injury law firm based in Kingston, NY that provides legal services throughout the entire state, including in: Kingston, Newburgh, Poughkeepsie, Ellenville, the Hudson Valley, New York City, and beyond.
We fight hard to maximize compensation for the people we represent and their families.
We are proud to offer confidential, no-cost, no-obligation consultations to injured workers throughout the state of New York. And if you choose to hire us after your consultation, we will not charge you a fee unless we get you money first.
If you can’t come to us, we will come to you. Just contact us online or call 845-303-8777 to talk with one of our Kingston workers’ comp lawyers today.