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Workplace Accidents & Third Party Liability
In many workplace accident cases, the legal remedy for victims is typically a workers’ compensation claim. Workers’ compensation is a type of no-fault insurance carried by most employers, which means injured workers can obtain benefits even if they, their co-workers, or their employer were at fault.
While workers’ compensation can be a vital lifeline, it has some limitations. For example, injured workers who seek benefits:
- Are typically required to obtain medical treatment from approved providers;
- May only recover a percentage of their lost wages;
- Cannot recover compensation for pain and suffering and other non-economic damages.
Though workers’ comp is the only available option after many workplace accidents, there are cases when injured workers or families may have the right to pursue legal action outside of the workers’ comp system. Typically, these cases involve the negligence of a third party who is NOT your direct employer.
Examples of Third Party Work Accident Lawsuits
In some workplace accident cases, it may be possible to hold a third party responsible. This might be an equipment manufacturer, a supplier, an independent contractor, or even an employment agency liable for screening or hiring, especially in workplace violence situations.
A few examples of when workers may be able to pursue third-party claims include:
- Defective Products: Workers perform jobs using a variety of products, tools, machinery, and vehicles. When a defectively designed, manufactured, or marketed product causes harm to a worker, there may be grounds for a civil product liability lawsuit against the manufacturer or retailer who made the product available to consumers and employers.
- Negligent Contractors: Many employers rely on contracted third parties to perform various tasks or services. This is common in construction, where many contractors and subcontractors can be present on a job site, but may also include contracted companies that handle distribution, maintenance, and other services. When third-party contractors cause preventable harm, victims may be able to pursue a negligence lawsuit to recover their damages.
- Motor Vehicle Accidents: Whether a job requires workers to drive, load or unload cargo, or perform job duties near roads and motor vehicles, workers injured in auto accidents may have grounds for a third-party claim. These cases can involve wrecks caused by negligent motorists, delivery truck accidents, 18-wheeler accidents, and crashes involving other commercial vehicles and transportation operated by a person or entity who is not a worker’s employer.
- Premises Liability: Third party liability may arise when workers are injured while performing jobs on property owned by someone who is not their employer. Workers who bring premises liability claims must prove a landowner’s negligence as the proximate cause of their injuries.
- Toxic Exposure: Some workers are exposed to harmful substances in the course of their work, and may suffer injuries and occupational illnesses as a result. Workers who sustain immediate injury or a latent illness after years of exposure may seek compensation by filing toxic torts against manufacturers and other negligent parties who caused or contributed to their exposure.
While North Carolina workers’ compensation laws prohibit employees from suing their own employer in many situations, there are some exceptions. However, these claims are generally limited to situations where:
- Employers do not carry workers’ compensation insurance (N.C. law requires employers with 3 or more employers to have workers’ comp coverage);
- Workers are harmed by an employer’s intentional acts (i.e. a direct physical assault); or
- An employer’s intentional conduct is “substantially certain” to cause injury or death. Often called Woodson Claims after a N.C. Supreme Court decision in the case of Woodson v. Rowland, these claims are rare, and must involve very egregious conduct.
Though Edwards Kirby does not handle workers’ compensation claims, we can help injured workers and families explore their options for pursuing civil injury or wrongful death lawsuits against one or more third-party defendants. We can also collaborate with workers’ comp attorneys to address victims’ income and immediate medical expenses while we investigate and prepare their civil case.
Proven Trial Lawyers Fighting For Injured Workers & Families
Edwards Kirby is committed to representing hard-working people across North Carolina who have been injured in work-related accidents and other incidents at the workplace. We know what a difference fair compensation, beyond workers’ comp benefits, can have for an injured worker and their family, and we fight for the maximum financial recovery possible.
As our results show, our firm has a proven record in a range of complex cases, including those involving serious burn injuries, explosions, electrocution, construction equipment accidents, and other workplace incidents. Our attorneys have also won the largest workplace violence jury verdict in U.S. history in a case involving multiple murders committed by a disgruntled employee in Asheville, North Carolina.
If you have questions about your rights and options after a workplace accident, call (919) 897-7662 or contact us online. Our Raleigh lawyers serve clients across North Carolina, and offers FREE and confidential case evaluations.
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