The term “third party” has many legal uses. It has more than one common usage in personal injury law.
Nevertheless, perhaps its most common usage refers to a third-party claim you file against someone arising out of a workplace accident. You are the first party, your employer is the second party, and the party you sue is the third party. Third-party lawsuits over workplace accidents aren’t always feasible, but they can be lucrative.
Workers’ Compensation Claims
The first option that normally comes to mind when you suffer a workplace accident is to file a workers’ compensation claim against your employer. The main advantage of filing a workers’ comp claim is that you don’t have to prove your employer was at fault to recover benefits. Additionally, you can typically win your claim even if the accident that injured you was your fault.
The biggest disadvantage of filing a workers’ compensation claim is that your benefits will be severely limited:
- You cannot seek non-economic damages such as pain and suffering. You cannot file a personal injury lawsuit against your employer, but you can seek medical expenses and a portion of your lost wages through workers’ comp.
- Illinois imposes a maximum on the weekly amount of wage replacement payments you can receive. Even if you suffer total disability, your workers’ comp payment might not add up to an average middle-class income.
This limitation on the amount of damages is one of the purposes of the workers’ compensation system—to limit the employer’s liability in the event of a workplace accident.
Third-Party Workplace Accident Claims
If a third party (someone other than your employer) shares liability for your work-related accident, you can file a personal injury lawsuit against that party.
Consider, for example, the following parties:
- The owner or operator of the premises upon which you were injured: If they allowed a dangerous condition to exist and that condition caused your injury, you might have a third-party claim
- A construction general contractor whose negligence caused or contributed to your accident
- The manufacturer or distributor of a defective product, such as factory machinery
- A driver for another company, who might have caused a truck accident that injured you
- An independent contractor who injured you
It would be impossible to list all of the possible third parties who might bear liability for a workplace accident, but these are a few examples.
Comparative Fault in a Third-Party Claim
Illinois applies a modified comparative fault system for apportioning liability when more than one party is at fault. Illinois utilizes the “51% rule,” whereby any party who is at least 51% at fault for an accident cannot receive any compensation. If you sue a third party, they will probably try to prove that the accident was mostly your fault.
If you were between 1% and 50% at fault, you will lose compensation in direct proportion to your percentage of fault. If you were 20% at fault, for example, a court will deduct 20% from your compensation.
Simultaneously Pursuing Workers’ Comp and Third-Party Personal Injury Claims
Just because you are filing a third-party workplace accident claim doesn’t mean you can’t simultaneously pursue a workers’ compensation claim under the right circumstances. One thing you are not entitled to, however, is more than one recovery. Once you have received an amount that represents 100% of your losses, you have to stop there.
Your employer might seek to “intervene” in your third-party lawsuit. For example, they might do this to prevent you from receiving more than a 100% recovery. In other words, they might intervene to recoup some of their own costs.
A court might also allow intervention if your employer can show that they have an interest in the case. They might need you to win your third-party claim because that would let your employer off the hook. Alternatively, there might be some other reason for your employer to intervene.
Under certain circumstances, a court might fail to impose liability upon the third party. This might increase the odds that the employer might bear liability to you. Cases like these also call for the “intervention” of an experienced personal injury lawyer.
Contact a Chicago Personal Injury Attorney for a Free Consultation If You Need Help With a Third-Party Claim
Any Chicago personal injury lawyer will be happy to schedule a free initial case consultation to discuss your case. The lawyer might even agree to meet you in the hospital. If you have a strong claim, don’t worry about how you will pay your legal fees. Your legal fees will come out of any amount you win. And if you don’t win, you won’t have to pay.
If you don’t win, your lawyer doesn’t win. Consequently, a personal injury lawyer has no incentive to exaggerate your chances of victory. The lawyer will almost certainly give you their honest assessment of your chances. Contact one of our experienced lawyers in Attorneys of Chicago Personal Injury Lawyers at (312) 929 2884.