Crossover Claims: Personal Injury & Workers Compensation
Most any injury related to your work should be covered under the worker’s compensation system. However, special circumstances occur when your injury is caused, or contributed to, by someone or something unrelated to your employer. For example, what happens if you are in a car crash during work related travel? You may have both a worker’s compensation claim, and a personal injury (third-party) claim.
Under the worker’s compensation system, your employer has immunity from any damages, except worker’s compensation coverage, when your employer is even partially at fault for your injury. Your worker’s compensation benefits are limited to coverage for necessary medical bills, and a percentage of lost wages. But when circumstances unrelated to your employer contribute to the injury, you may seek all legal remedies against that non-employment related person or entity. This is known as a third-party claim. The damages recoverable are compensation for pain, suffering, emotional distress, and loss of enjoyment of life. In an injury such as death, paralysis, amputation, or permanent disability, these damages are significant. None of these damages are compensated under the worker’s compensation system.
There are benefits to pursuing both a worker’s compensation claim and a third party claim in tandem. Worker’s compensation provides immediate medical care. You will not have to wait for resolution of the third party claim, in order to have resources to obtain necessary medical care now, when it’s needed. Likewise, disability benefits, or at least a percentage of them, are payable now. That could be the difference between paying your regular expenses on an ongoing basis, and economic disaster.
But there are pitfalls if your lawyer is not familiar with both systems. Time is limited to file a third-party claim, before it is automatically assigned to the worker’s compensation carrier. Even if filed on time, the worker’s compensation carrier has a lien against the third-party recovery, to recover the amounts it paid. Sometimes that amount of recovery can be negotiated with a worker’s compensation carrier, especially when the employer was partially at fault for the injuries too. But negotiation leverage can be completely lost if the third-party claim isn’t filed before it gets assigned to the worker’s compensation carrier.
These are just some of the concerns in crossover claims.
Our freedom is built upon the foundation, that we all have a responsibility to conduct ourselves with reasonable care for the safety of others, in our activities. That is the purpose of traffic laws, standards of care for professionals, and regulations for businesses. We’re supposed to play by the rules, not for the sake of the rule, but for safety of our community. Injuries usually happen because someone chose to ignore a safety rule, for their personal convenience.
Compensatory damages are designed to help relieve the burden caused by negligently inflicted injuries. They include consideration for the nature, extent, and duration of the injury; the loss of health; anxiety; medical expenses; loss of earnings or future earning capacity; loss of the usual familial companionship; and loss of enjoyment of life.
When rules designed to prevent injury are deliberately ignored, either with the purpose of causing injury or with reckless disregard to the risk that the conduct might significantly injure the rights of others, punitive damages may be recoverable.