When a person is injured at work due to the fault or negligence of someone other than his employer or co-employee, then the injured person may have a third-party claim to pursue against the individual who caused the injury.
Workers’ compensation itself has a no-fault legal structure. Someone’s negligence or fault, including that of the injured worker, does not matter in a workers’ compensation case. The exception to this is if the injured worker is injured due to his own intoxication. Otherwise, negligence and fault on the part of the injured worker or on the part of the employer or co-employee does not matter in the workers’ compensation case.
If someone is injured by the negligence of an outside party, or third party, then the injured worker has both a workers’ compensation claim to pursue and a third-party claim to pursue against the negligent party. That third-party case would be handled in civil court. Generally speaking, the negligence of someone who causes an injury is referred to as a tort. The workers’ compensation insurance carrier has a reimbursement or subrogation lien against the recovery one gets from the third-party tort case against the negligent person or entity. We have experience negotiating a reduction in that reimbursement claim or getting it eliminated in Superior Court.
Our firm recently handled a workers’ compensation case for a police officer who was injured at an apartment complex when he responded to a call for domestic violence. It was late at night, and it had been raining, and the officer had to go up to the second-floor apartment to investigate the 911 call. The steps and porch decking at the apartment complex were made of wood. The steps had not been maintained properly and as a result, moss or algae had grown on the steps, causing the steps to be quite slippery. As the police officer was coming back down the steps, his feet slid out from under him on the algae-covered steps and he fell, injuring his shoulder.
Attorney Bob Bollinger handled his workers’ compensation case and eventually got it settled. Bob also handled his third-party case against the apartment complex, for failing to maintain the steps properly, and we filed suit in Mecklenburg County Superior Court to pursue that third-party claim. It ended up settling at mediation. The settlement in the third-party case was larger than the amount of workers’ compensation benefits paid, and the agency that employed the officer automatically had a “workers’ compensation lien claim” against the third-party proceeds.
We filed a motion in Superior Court to reduce or eliminate the workers’ compensation lien and were able to get some relief on that lien from the court, such that the injured officer did not have to repay the entire amount claimed by the workers’ compensation insurance company.
You might get more money out of the third-party case than you did out of the workers’ compensation case, so it is worth pursuing. In addition, the workers’ compensation lien can be reduced or eliminated under North Carolina law either through negotiation or by going to Superior Court and requesting that the lien be reduced or eliminated. These two factors together mean that a third-party case is worth pursuing if you have been injured at work and an outside person or entity negligence was the cause of your injury.
The outside entity could be the employee of another company, or a negligent driver on the highway. Or, it could be an injury caused by a defective piece of machinery, resulting in a products liability case against a manufacturer. Or, as in the police officer case, it could be due to a premises liability situation where someone has not properly maintained their property, causing you to get hurt.
If you think that there might be third-party liability for your on-the-job injury, please call Bob Bollinger for a free consultation and strategy session! Our new offices are easily accessible and offer free parking. Call 704-377-7677 or toll free at 866-326-3090 to make an appointment with a skilled third-party claims lawyer.