When a person is injured in the course and scope of their employment in California by an anticipated and foreseeable risk of that employment, the general rule is that his or her sole and exclusive remedy is through California’s workers’ compensation laws. The rule applies even when the employee is injured through his or her own negligence or the negligence of a co-employee from the same company. That’s because workers’ compensation (workman’s comp) is a no-fault system.
Exceptions: When a Third Party Caused the Accident.
An exception to this rule is when an employee of one company is injured as a result of the carelessness and negligence of somebody else who is acting in the course of their employment with another company. This often happens in construction accidents. For example, Alan is a carpenter on an eight foot step ladder inside of a parking garage that’s under construction. He has placed safety cones around the area where he’s working. Zeke is a driver for an electrical supply company, and he’s making a delivery for electricians on the same job site. He’s looking at his phone when he comes around a corner, drives through the safety cones and strikes the step ladder. Alan crashes to the concrete floor and suffers multiple fractures. He’s facing surgery, lengthy physical therapy and rehab along with six months off of work. He files for workers’ compensation benefits right away. A few months later, he visits and retains us to represent him in an action against the driver and his employer.
The Problem With Workers’ Compensation Benefits
Workers’ compensation benefits are limited. They generally only contemplate payment of the following:
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- Periodic payment of a sum equal to two-thirds of the injured employees average weekly wages.
- Reasonable medical bills incurred as a result of the injury.
- Permanent partial disability.
Other damages that might be recoverable in a personal injury lawsuit aren’t covered by California workers compensation laws. Here are some of those damages:
- Permanent disfigurement.
- Loss of enjoyment of life.
- Pain and suffering.
On the basis of these additional damages that can be sought, a personal injury lawsuit against a third party is almost always more valuable than a workers’ compensation claim. Read more about Carpenter’s worker’s comp claims here.
You Can Only Have One Recovery
Double dipping by receiving workers’ compensation temporary total disability benefits and lost earnings benefits in a personal injury lawsuit isn’t permitted. California law requires that the employer’s workers’ compensation insurer be reimbursed for the temporary total disability payments that it paid Alan if he is awarded lost earnings in his personal injury case.
That workers’ compensation insurer is also allowed to exercise its right to subrogation. Unless waived or otherwise compromised, all medical bills paid by the workers’ compensation insurer must also be reimbursed along with permanent partial disability payments.
Limited vs. Lifetime
Other than extraordinary cases, what workers’ compensation benefits will pay for and how long those items will be paid for have their limitations. On the other hand, damages awards in personal injury cases can be computed to a victim’s life expectancy. If third party liability exists on a case that would otherwise be limited to the scope of workers’ compensation laws, it’s likely that the victim would come out much farther ahead by bringing a personal injury lawsuit at the same time that workers’ compensation benefits are being received.
Contact a Los Angeles Personal Injury Lawyer
According to Daytona Workers’ compensation Lawyer Keith C. Warnock, construction sites are beehives of dangerous activities. Whether you’re a carpenter, electrician, plumber or sheet metal worker, two claims might arise from a single injury. You might not even know that a viable third party claim exists. When there’s third party liability, California law allows you to pursue both workers’ compensation and personal injury claims simultaneously. Pursuing two is obviously complicated.
Contact us by phone or email on any Los Angeles County construction accident, and you can arrange for a free case consultation and third party case evaluation with us. If we’re retained to represent you, we don’t even get paid any legal fees at all unless we obtain a settlement or verdict for you. Don’t just accept what your employer’s workers’ compensation insurer wants to pay you when other and significantly higher compensation might be available.