Third-Party Workplace Lawsuits And Workers’ Compensation In Arizona
Workplace accidents and injuries can happen no matter how careful you are. In Arizona, workers’ compensation laws generally prevent you from suing your employer when you’re hurt at work.
That said, there are certain instances where a third party could be responsible for your injuries or your employer could have committed gross negligence or malicious conduct.
If you’re injured on the job and file a workers’ compensation claim, you will not receive money for pain and suffering. However, if you can prove that another party is responsible for your injury, you could be eligible to receive this compensation from them by filing a third-party workplace injury claim.
Examples Of Third-Party Work Injury Lawsuits
Here are some examples of the types of individuals that may be personally liable for a work accident, as well as scenarios when a third-party lawsuit may be possible in Arizona:
- Independent Supervisors/Managers– If the project you’re working on is being supervised or managed by someone who’s not your manager, it could be possible to sue the individual supervisor—so long as they can’t use the legal doctrine of respondeat superior as a defense.
- Manufacturers And Suppliers– If your injury was caused by defective equipment, you could file a third-party lawsuit against the parts manufacturer or the company that supplied the parts. This can usually be done in conjunction with any workers’ compensation claim you file with your employer.
- Other Drivers– If another driver hits you while working, you can apply for a workers’ compensation claim against your employer and sue the at-fault driver.
- Subcontractors– If you’re working with a subcontractor on a project and you’re injured, you could file a claim of compensation against other subcontractors on the project.
There are tons of other examples of situations where you can file a workers’ compensation claim and negligence claim at the same time.
Establishing Liability In A Third-Party Claim
Workers’ compensation is a no-fault system meaning if you’re injured in the course of your job, no matter who is at fault, you receive compensation. However, if you file a lawsuit against a third party, you will have to establish a clear line of negligence against them.
In other words:
Claimants have a higher burden of proof in a third-party negligence claim than a workers’ compensation claim.
To establish negligence against a third party, your case must include the following elements:
- Duty– A duty of care has to be involved. This duty could exist either directly or implied and can be as simple as someone inviting you on their property or by allowing an unsafe product to go onto the market.
- Breach– Your negligence case must show a breach of duty. For example, perhaps the third party failed to safely maintain the worksite, failed to obey traffic laws or they made a product that presents a known risk of injury.
- Causation– Your injury must have been caused by a breach of duty. In other words, if the breach in duty hadn’t occurred, you would have no chance of being injured.
- Damages– Lastly, you must have sustained damages. Furthermore, these damages must be substantial enough to cause serious financial distress such as an ongoing disability, medical bills, lost wages, or pain and suffering.
Filing A Third-Party Workplace Injury Claim
Like workers’ compensation claims, injured workers interested in filing a third-party workplace injury claim in Arizona have 1 year from the time of the injury to do so. If the injured party misses this deadline (known as the statute of limitations), the claim will be denied.
If you’re filing both a workers’ compensation claim and a third-party lawsuit for the same injury, it’s important to keep your employer’s workers’ compensation insurance carrier in the loop. They will need the information about any developments in the third-party lawsuit. This includes details about any plea agreements entered as well as any rulings or settlements awarded.
When your third-party lawsuit reaches a settlement, the workers’ compensation insurance company may ask you to give written consent for the arrangement made between you and the third-party defendant. Failure to do so could mean you forfeit your original workers’ compensation benefits.
While it might seem like a long time, a year goes by quickly. Given that you only have 1 year’s time in which to file a worker’s compensation claim in Arizona, having an experienced workers’ comp attorney on your side can keep you from becoming overwhelmed.