After a workplace accident, many workers are confused about what their options are regarding compensation. In most cases, the answer is simply filing a workers’ compensation claim. But for workers injured under certain conditions, there is a second legal option: a third-party liability lawsuit.
Below is some information on these two compensation options in Washington and why both are important.
Workers’ usually cannot sue their employers
In Washington state, workers’ compensation is considered the “exclusive remedy” for workplace injuries. If your employer has workers’ compensation insurance, they agree to cover your injuries in exchange for protection from litigation. Because you typically cannot sue your employer (regardless of fault for the accident), workers’ compensation is your only compensation option, or the exclusive remedy.
Although you can’t sue your employer, you can sometimes sue a third-party that caused or contributed to the workplace accident.
Third-party liability lawsuits
A third-party liability lawsuit is not a workers’ compensation claim. Instead, it is a type of personal injury lawsuit that you can pursue in addition to filing a worker’s compensation claim. Workers’ compensation covers losses such as medical costs and a portion of missed wages. A TPL lawsuit, however, allows you to seek damages for things like pain and suffering and full compensation for lost wages.
Defendants in a suit are any parties other than your employer/coworkers who caused or contributed to the accident or your injuries. These could include:
- Other contractors at the construction site where you work
- Manufacturers of defective equipment that led to injuries
- General contractors and vendors
- Other drivers on the road (if you are a commercial driver)
As just one example, imagine you are a shuttle van driver for a hotel. While driving one day, your vehicle is struck by a drunk driver and you suffer serious injuries. You can sue the drunk driver for personal injury in addition to claiming workers’ compensation benefits (because the crash occurred in the scope of your employment and while you were on the clock).
Don’t be afraid to explore your options
If you’ve been injured on the job, you may need all the legal and financial help you can get. That’s why, in addition to filing a workers’ comp claim, you might want to discuss your third-party liability options with an experienced personal injury attorney.