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Filing a Third-Party Claim After a Work Injury

Wilson & McQueen, PLLC  July 5, 2024

The aftermath of a workplace accident can be an extremely trying time for workers and their families. The physical pain and financial stress can be too much to handle. But know this: filing a workers’ compensation claim, which may not be enough to fully compensate you for all your losses, is not the only option for seeking monetary relief.  

Depending on the circumstances of your injury, you may also be able to file a third-party claim. While this may not be an option for every employee who suffers a work injury, it’s a relief option that may be worth considering if you want to maximize your compensation. And our team at Wilson & McQueen, PLLC, is here to help.  

Our third-party liability attorneys in Lexington, Kentucky, can assess your situation and determine if you can file a third-party claim as a source of additional compensation after a workplace accident. We have over 90 years of combined experience representing injured and disabled workers in Lexington and the surrounding area, including Richmond, London, Georgetown, and Nicholasville.  

Can a Third Party Cause Your Workplace Injury?

Workplace injuries can happen in various ways, but they aren't always caused by your employer or co-workers. Sometimes, a third party – such as a contractor, vendor, or equipment manufacturer–may be responsible. For instance, if you're using machinery provided by a contractor and it malfunctions, causing you injury, the contractor could be liable for your injury if the machinery wasn’t maintained in a safe condition.  

Identifying responsible third parties can open additional avenues for compensation, potentially covering more than what your employer’s workers' compensation insurance can offer. This makes it essential to assess all angles of your injury incident with an attorney, as identifying liable third parties often requires an in-depth investigation.  

What Is a Third-Party Claim in Workplace Accidents?

A third-party claim is a legal action you take against someone other than your employer who may be responsible for your injury. Unlike workers' compensation claims, which are typically filed against your employer’s insurance provider, third-party claims target external parties. These could include contractors, subcontractors, vendors, or even drivers in case of vehicle-related work injuries. 

Filing a third-party claim involves proving that the third party was negligent and that their negligence led to your injury. This process can be more complex than filing a workers' compensation claim (you don’t have to prove anyone’s fault when pursuing a workers’ comp claim), but the potential benefits could be worth the extra effort.

A successful third-party claim can cover medical expenses and lost wages in full and provide compensation for other damages such as pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, emotional distress, and others.  

Third-party claims extend beyond immediate financial relief. They can also hold negligent parties accountable, which could lead to safer workplace practices and environments. 

When Can You File a Third-Party Claim?

Filing a third-party claim is only possible under certain conditions. First, you must establish that a third party was responsible for your injury. This means proving that the third party owed you a duty of care, breached that duty, and that the breach caused your injury and damages. You can file a third-party claim and seek compensation for any type of injury. The same cannot be said about workers’ compensation claims. For your injury to qualify for workers’ compensation, it must occur "in the course of employment.”  

Timing is another crucial factor. Typically, third-party claims must be filed within a specific period after the injury, known as the statute of limitations. In Kentucky, the statute of limitations for injury claims is one year from the date of injury or the date when the injury was discovered (KRS § 413.140(1)(a)). Failing to file within this window could result in losing your right to seek compensation through a third-party claim. 

Documentation is key in these cases. Ensure you have detailed records of the injury, including medical reports, witness statements, and any correspondence with the third party. An attorney can help you gather all available evidence that can be used to build a strong case and increase your chances of a favorable outcome.  

Can You File a Third-Party Claim While Receiving Workers' Compensation Benefits?

One common misconception is that you cannot pursue a third-party claim if you already receive workers' compensation benefits. This just isn't true, and we don’t understand why people still believe this. In reality, you can pursue both concurrently, but it's important to understand how they interact. 

Workers' compensation benefits are typically limited, covering medical expenses and a portion of lost wages (as explained in our workers’ comp FAQs). A third-party claim, on the other hand, can potentially offer broader compensation, including for pain and suffering. However, if you win a third-party claim, you may need to reimburse your employer or their insurance company for the workers' compensation benefits you've already received. This is known as “subrogation.”  

You might want to consult with an attorney with experience handling workers' compensation and third-party claims. They can help you understand your rights and explain whether pursuing both a workers’ comp claim and a third-party claim would be the right move.  

Things to Consider Before Filing a Third-Party Claim After a Work Injury

There are several factors to consider before filing a third-party claim. First, evaluate the potential benefits against the time and effort involved. Third-party claims can be lengthy and require meticulous evidence-gathering and preparation. 

Second, consider the potential impact on your relationship with your employer. While your claim targets a third party, it can sometimes create tensions or misunderstandings within your workplace. Open communication with your employer about your intentions could help mitigate this. 

On the bright side, successfully pursuing a third-party claim can set a precedent for future workplace safety improvements and hold negligent parties accountable. This can contribute to a safer working environment for you and your colleagues. 

Evaluate Your Legal Options After a Work Injury With an Attorney

At Wilson & McQueen, PLLC, we are dedicated to helping hard-working men and women of Kentucky pursue the maximum compensation to which they are entitled. This includes exploring the option of filing a third-party claim. If you are unsure whether or not any third party is liable for your work injury, let our attorneys evaluate the facts of your case and advise you on your options.

Reach out to our office in Lexington or London today to request a free case evaluation. We also serve clients throughout London, Georgetown, Richmond, and Nicholasville.