If you have sustained an injury or occupational disease or death while at work, you are likely exhausted and overwhelmed. And you are not alone; in fact, a report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics stated that, in 2020, “there were 2.7 million nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses reported by private industry employers.” The good news is that you are very likely eligible to receive workers’ compensation, which can relieve some of your financial burden and cover things like medical bills and lost wages.
In addition to filing for workers’ compensation, you may also be wondering if you’re able to sue a third party who played a role in your accident or injury. If you were injured in the Hazelton, PA area, and a third party (meaning anyone outside your employer and coworkers) was involved in your case, the answer is most likely yes. Did a piece of machinery malfunction? The manufacturer may be liable. Were you harmed while working on hazardous property belonging to someone other than your employer? The property owner may be liable.
The Hazelton workers’ compensation lawyers at Munley Law Personal Injury Attorneys are experts in parsing out cases like these, and fighting to ensure you receive both the justice and the compensation you deserve. Contact us today for a free initial consultation.
Understanding Workers’ Compensation
Workers’ compensation, often referred to as “workers’ comp”, is a state-mandated insurance program that offers payment to those who have been hurt or experienced an occupational disease while at work. It protects both the employer and the employee, ensuring that employees receive compensation and help if they sustain an injury while at work, and preventing employers from being sued by an employee if something like this occurs. Workers’ compensation is an extremely common way for workers who have been injured on the job to cover medical expenses and make up for lost wages, and most Pennsylvania employees (with some exceptions) are guaranteed coverage by the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act. This compensation available through the Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs covers four main areas:
- Wage replacement benefits
- Medical treatment
- Vocational rehabilitation
- Other benefits
Contact a Munley workers’ compensation lawyer in Hazelton, Pennsylvania today to begin the process of pursuing your case.
Filing for Workers’ Compensation
Your very first step after sustaining an injury in your workplace should be to seek medical care and prioritize your safety and health. Beyond that, you should alert your employer about your injury immediately. You have 21 days to alert your employer in order to receive benefits starting from the date of your injury. If you wait more than 21 days, your benefits will start from the date of your claim. If you wait longer than 120 days, you may lose your right to seek any benefits at all. It is always best to avoid waiting that long. Tell your employer as soon as possible.
Once you’ve alerted your employer, it is their obligation to file a First Report of Injury with the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation.
Your employer will also notify their insurer or insurance company, and it’s then up to the insurance company to examine the accident and injury and determine whether the claim is valid. If the insurance company accepts your claim, you will receive a Notice of Compensation Payable, and will begin to receive workers’ compensation benefits. In some cases, you will be issued a Notice of Temporary Compensation Payable, which means the insurance company has not yet reached a decision about your claim, but is willing to offer you some benefits in the meantime.
Remember that It’s in your best interest to hire an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer such as the Hazelton workers’ compensation attorneys at Munley Law Personal Injury Attorneys as soon as possible after your injury. Working with an attorney ensures that your employer will not attempt to avoid paying you the full compensation you deserve.
Understanding Third Party Claims
When you are injured at work, you generally are not legally allowed to sue your employer or coworkers, even if their negligence was fully or partially responsible for your injury. Instead, your best course of action is most likely to file a workers’ compensation claim. In Hazelton and the state of Pennsylvania as a whole, the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act is intended to provide for people who were injured at their workplace, rendering a personal injury suit against an employer unnecessary in most cases.
However, when you are injured at work, there may be parties at fault outside of the employer, and you may be able to file a personal injury suit against them. Essentially, a third party claim is a claim against any entity other than your employer that contributed to your workplace injury. You are considered the first party, your employer is the second party, and the third party is anyone else who contributed to or caused the injury.
If, for example, your injury was due to a piece of machinery spontaneously malfunctioning, you may be able to file a personal injury suit against the manufacturer of that machinery. Other examples of potential third party claims include:
- If you are working on someone else’s property (perhaps as a landscaper or wi-fi technician, for example) and you are bitten or injured by the property owner’s dog, you may be able to sue the property owner
- If your job involves driving and you are in a car accident while working, you may be able to file a personal injury suit with the other driver
- If your job involves exposure to toxins or chemicals that cause injury or disease, you may be able to file a personal injury suit against the manufacturers of those products
- And more
Proving Negligence in a Third Party Claim
In order to sue a third party for your workplace injury, you and your lawyer will need to prove that the third party exhibited negligence. In order to prove that you must prove the following:
- That the third party owed you a duty of care
- That this duty of care was breached
- You suffered injuries or harm as a result of this breach
- Those injuries resulted in monetary damages and a financial burden to you
A duty of care is essentially one party’s legal responsibility to act reasonably and not in a manner that could foreseeably cause someone harm or injury. This duty is breached when one party acts unreasonably or negligently in a manner that causes harm or injury to someone else. So how do you prove this duty of care exists in a third party claim for a workplace injury, and how do you prove that the duty of care was breached?
You and your attorney will review the specifics of your case in order to come up with a proper approach, but the duty of care and the obligation to act reasonably is present in most situations. For instance, if you work for a painting company and are painting someone’s home, the property owner or renter is responsible for making sure the environment is reasonably safe so that you can perform your work. In other words, they owe you a duty of care. If they know their staircase is poorly maintained and don’t tell you, and you fall through it and sustain an injury, that duty of care has been breached.
Then, of course, you and your Hazelton workers’ personal injury lawyer will gather evidence showing that this incident caused you an injury, and that the injury resulted in monetary damages. This evidence will likely exist in the form of medical bills and records, as well as photographs, testimony, and more. The third party will most likely try to deny their negligence at every possible point along the way, which is why it’s absolutely crucial to work with an experienced attorney who can fight back on your behalf and ensure you don’t get shortchanged.
Can You File for Workers’ Compensation and File a Third Party Claim?
Depending on your case, you may be able to file for workers’ compensation and file a third party claim at the same time. It’s always best to consult with your Hazelton workers’ comp attorney to determine whether this is the best course of action.
However, while you are legally able to file for both of these means of compensation at the same time, you are not able to receive double benefits for the same injury. If you are receiving workers’ compensation and you and your Hazelton third party claim lawyer sue a third party for the same accident and win, you will need to recoup your employer for any workers’ compensation benefits you received. This is known as a right to subrogation, meaning that Pennsylvania employers and their insurance carriers have a legal right to be repaid for any damages they paid out to you if you ultimately find a third party negligent and liable.
For this reason, it’s important to weigh whether the potential compensation received from suing the third party will be greater than what you may receive via workers’ compensation (which does have a weekly statewide cap). If so, suing that third party may be wise. If not, you might be better off solely pursuing workers’ compensation. Talk to your Hazelton workers’ comp lawyer today to decide which of these paths is best for you and your particular case.
Compensation in Workers Compensation Versus Third Party Claims
Generally, workers’ compensation provides coverage for lost wages, medical bills, and vocational rehabilitation. In most cases, the vast majority of your medical bills and health or treatment related expenses should be covered by workers’ comp. Regarding lost wage benefits, most people receive a weekly check with what amounts to approximately ⅔ of their pre-injury salary, capped currently in Pennsylvania at $1205 per week. How long these benefits extend for depends on the extent of your injury and disability.
However, it is not uncommon for employers and their insurance carriers to try to undermine someone’s disability status in order to avoid paying out benefits for longer than they wish to. If you believe this is the case, please contact a Hazelton workers’ comp attorney at Munley Law Personal Injury Attorneys as soon as possible so that we can help you set things right.
In any personal injury case, such as a third party claim, it’s difficult to estimate how much a suit may be worth without examining the specific case details. Speak to your Munley Law Personal Injury Attorneys attorney today to get an estimate for your case and decide whether filing a third party suit may be the right course of action for you.
What the Hazelton Munley Law Personal Injury Attorneys Lawyers Can Do For You
Experiencing an injury in the workplace is, without a doubt, a stressful and traumatizing experience, and it’s made all the more difficult if you try to seek compensation alone. Allow the attorneys at Munley Law Personal Injury Attorneys to navigate the legal system for you so that you can focus on your recovery and getting back to your work and your life.
At Munley Law Personal Injury Attorneys, we know that employers and their insurance providers are sometimes resistant to workers compensation claims, and that third parties and their legal teams will do everything they can to disprove your case. But we are committed to fighting for you at every turn, and we have the excellent track record to prove that you can rely on us. Our incredible team consists of ten excellent, highly experienced lawyers and dozens of excellent legal support staff whose singular goal is to protect your rights. All of our highly-qualified lawyers have years of hands-on trial experience, which is something many personal injury attorneys and firms cannot offer.
Please don’t hesitate to reach out to Munley Law Personal Injury Attorneys to meet one of our incredible personal injury and workers’ compensation attorneys. Contact us today to schedule your free consultation and learn how we can protect your interests and help you recover compensation.