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Colorado Workers’ Compensation Cases and Third-Party Liability

Third-party liability is a phrase you might hear as you approach a Colorado workers’ compensation claim. But what does it actually mean? Although it is easy to dismiss complex terminology like this, it might be worth looking into this subject further. Third-party liability is a concept that may affect your total compensation after a workplace accident. While this concept doesn’t apply to all workers’ compensation claims, it has the potential to increase the amount of money you’ll receive. One of the best ways to assess the role of third-party liability in your workers’ compensation claim is to discuss the subject further with a workers’ comp lawyer.

Workers' Compensation

Understanding Why Third-Party Liability Is an Important Concept

To understand why third-party liability is an important concept in the world of workers’ comp, you first must understand how this system works in general. For all intents and purposes, workers’ compensation is a no-fault insurance scheme. Workers do not need to prove negligence in order to pursue compensation after a workplace injury, and this generally leads to quick, streamlined access to funds.

However, this no-fault system comes at a cost. Although employers have access to easy compensation through this system, they receive less than a typical plaintiff filing a personal injury lawsuit. This is because a workers’ compensation settlement only provides two-thirds of missed wages, while an injury lawsuit has the potential to fully compensate for these missed earnings. In addition, an injury lawsuit provides compensation for non-economic damages, while a workers’ compensation claim does not.

Non-economic damages have the potential to increase total settlements to a considerable degree. These damages represent your psychological or emotional losses. You might have heard terms like “emotional distress” or “pain and suffering,” although non-economic damages may also include disfigurement, PTSD, loss of consortium, and a range of other issues. The workers’ compensation system completely disregards these losses.

Why is third-party liability important after a workplace accident? Because it theoretically allows you to file a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault party instead of going through the workers’ compensation system. In other words, it provides you with greater potential for compensation.

How Does Third-Party Liability Work After an Accident on the Job?

If someone other than your direct employer caused your workplace accident, you can hold them liable and potentially sue them directly. In other words, “third-party liability” applies to your situation. There are many examples of how this might occur. The classic example involves a construction site with numerous contractors and trades working side-by-side. One contractor might be responsible for the electric work, while another might be responsible for pouring the concrete. Amidst this confusion, another contractor might be organizing unskilled laborers for general work.

If any of these workers injure each other, this could potentially lead to a third-party liability lawsuit. For example, an electrician might accidentally start an electrical fire that causes severe facial burns for a concrete worker. The injured concrete worker could then potentially file a third-party liability claim against the electrician’s company. Note that this course of action would be especially effective in this situation, as disfigurement is limited in workers compensation to modest amounts compared to what is recoverable in a third party action.

Third-party liability is not limited to construction sites, and there may be many other situations in which this might unfold. You might walk out of your office and fall down the stairs after tripping on cables left by a negligent janitor. In this case, you could potentially sue the janitorial company.

Another obvious example involves work-related traffic accidents. For example, you might be a UPS worker driving down a highway. If a drunk trucker crashes into you and causes you to suffer serious injuries, you may have the opportunity to sue the trucking company directly instead of filing a workers’ compensation claim. Even if the negligent driver who caused your accident was not working at the time of the collision, it may still be more beneficial to file a normal car accident injury claim rather than a workers’ compensation claim. You may pursue both claims.

Find an Experienced Workers’ Compensation Lawyer in Colorado

Each workers’ compensation claim is slightly different, and while online research may provide basic information, it cannot offer targeted legal advice. For this, you will need to consult with an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer in Colorado. Choose the Law Offices of W. Dan Mahoney, P.C. to determine what kind of role third-party liability may play in your situation. We have been helping injured workers in Colorado for many years, and we are committed to fighting for compensation on your behalf. Reach out today to get started with a consultation.