Question

I was recently injured in an automobile accident that occurred while I was delivering furniture for the company I work for. A guy ran a red light and t-boned my delivery truck. I was pretty seriously injured and missed several weeks of work. I filed a workers’ compensation claim through my employer and was paid benefits from my employer’s workers’ compensation carrier. The benefits paid did not fully pay for all of the loss I suffered as a result of this accident. I feel that the driver of the other vehicle should have to compensate me for the difference but my husband says that since I filed a workers’ compensation claim and was paid workers’ compensation benefits, I cannot sue the person who is at fault for injuring me. I always believed that receiving workers’ compensation benefits did not affect my right to sue a third-party who caused the injury. Which one of us is correct?

Answer:

You are. An employee’s claim for workers’ compensation benefits should not affect the employee’s claim or right of action against any third-party for damages that result from the injury. Thus, a worker injured on-the-job by a third-party can sue that third-party for all the damages sustained as a result of the injury. In addition, an employer (or its workers’ compensation carrier), who pays or is obligated to pay benefits to or on behalf of the worker injured by a third-party, may also bring an action against the third-party. The employer or workers’ compensation carrier also has a right to assert a lien on any recovery the employee receives in an action against a third-party for any benefits the carrier paid to the injured employee.

If an employee chooses to file a claim against a third-party for damages resulting from personal injuries he or she must do so within two years from the date the injury was sustained in order to comply with the statute of limitations. A complaint against the third-party tortfeasor by the employer to recover compensation benefits paid is subject to the same statute of limitations period. Thus, any claim by an employer or its insurer must be filed within the limitations period, measured from the date the employee was injured and not from the date the workers’ compensation benefits were paid.

In addition, if you had an attorney that represented you in your workers’ compensation claim, that attorney should have informed you that you may have a viable claim against the truck driver. This is because workers’ compensation attorneys are obligated to advise injured employees of potential rights against third-party tortfeasors.

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