When Can You File a Third Party Lawsuit for a Workplace Accident?

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Every employer working in the state of New Jersey is required to use workers’ compensation unless they are covered by federal programs. This means workers who are injured on the job can file claims for workers’ compensation to receive coverage for medical costs and lost wages.

However, workers’ compensation bars injured workers from suing their employers in most cases. There are still circumstances where workers can sue other parties who caused their injuries, such as contractors or equipment manufacturers. These are called “third party lawsuits,” and they can result in much larger awards for injured workers.

Construction, industrial, mining and oil workers are likely to encounter this scenario. For example, construction sites are filled with various contractors using equipment made by multiple companies. Any one of these companies may contribute to a worker’s injury or death by being negligent.

What Can a Third Party Lawsuit Look Like?

A hypothetical example can explain further. Let’s say a New Jersey construction worker helping build a new office complex is injured by a contractor hired by a separate company. The injury occurred because the contractor was not adequately trained by his company to operate a forklift. Our construction worker falls from the forklift and sustains a spinal cord injury.

In this scenario, it is possible the injured construction worker could file a third party lawsuit against the company that employed the contractor. It would also be smart to do so because workers’ compensation benefits are unlikely to provide the funds needed to recover from and live with a spinal cord injury.

Let’s say this construction worker does file a third party lawsuit. He should first file for workers’ compensation to cover medical bills and lost wages while his lawsuit is underway. In the event the lawsuit is successful, any funds obtained under workers’ compensation would be subrogated from the damages received and paid back to the insurance providers. Keep in mind, that because third party lawsuits allow for pain and suffering and punitive damages, awards can still be very large even when workers’ compensation providers are reimbursed.

The New Jersey personal injury attorneys at Keefe Law Firm will fight to hold negligent businesses accountable for injuring workers.