Can You File a Workers’ Compensation Claim AND a Personal Injury Lawsuit at Same Time??

Thu, May 9th, 2019

If you are hurt at work, then you are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits.  These benefits entitle you to receive up to 2/3 of your wages while you are out of work, as well as payment of your medical and prescription expenses that you need as a result of your workplace injury.  Workers’ compensation does not, however, compensate you for lawsuit-style damages such as pain and suffering, or loss of enjoyment of life (such as never being able to play catch with your child due to your permanent shoulder impairment).

So why not just file a lawsuit against your employer so that you can recover additional damages?  Unfortunately, you can’t.  The general rule, in NY state, is that you can not sue your employer (or co-worker) for your injuries, even if it was entirely their fault.  Why?  Because the NY legislature took this right away from the worker many years ago.  In exchange, it established the workers’ compensation system as a “no-fault” system.  This means that, generally, any worker hurt on the job may collect workers’ compensation benefits no matter the cause (even if the injury was caused entirely by the employee’s own negligence). 

Sometimes, however, it is possible to file a workers’ compensation claim and a personal injury lawsuit at the same time, even when they arise from the same injury.  This can be done when a third-party (i.e., someone other than your employer or co-worker) is responsible for your injuries.  In the comp world we refer to these lawsuits, quite uncleverly, as “third-party actions.”

For example, [and because I really, really like pizza] let’s assume that your job requires you to deliver pizzas for Harrisoni Pizza Co.  As you’re driving down Ridge Road with a stack of pizzas for you to deliver to customers, your vehicle is T-boned [yup, I also like steak] by another completely unrelated vehicle that cruised through a stop sign.  In this scenario, you could (and should) consult a workers’ compensation attorney and file a workers’ compensation claim against the Harrisoni Pizza Co.  In addition, you would also be able to file a lawsuit against the driver of the vehicle (the third-party) that struck your vehicle.   

Why would you bother filing both the workers’ compensation claim and the lawsuit?  First, because lawsuits take a while to resolve.  While you are out of work because of your injury and in need of medical treatment, workers’ compensation benefits would tide you over so that you can still pay your monthly bills, put food on the table and get the treatment you need.  Second, because by filing the lawsuit you may be entitled to compensation for those additional damages that workers’ compensation does not pay, such as pain and suffering, or loss of enjoyment of life, among others.

Final thoughts:

When you are injured on the job, the financial and medical effects can be devastating. Many people who are injured on the job do not realize the full extent of their rights or the compensation they could receive. Speaking with a seasoned, dedicated and hard-working Workers' Compensation attorney can be extremely valuable. The Harrison Law Office offers no-obligation, free case reviews.

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