Generally speaking, Indiana workers are precluded from filing a lawsuit against their employers or other people employed by the same employer when they are injured on the job. However, in the event that one can prove that the injury was due to the fault of another company or person employed by another company, an employee may also pursue what is called a “third-party claim”. In this case, the employee would file a lawsuit for damages. This lawsuit would be in addition to the remedies available under the Indiana Worker’s Compensation laws and benefits. Having said that, however, in most instances the employer’s insurer will seek subrogation for those benefits paid on behalf of the employee. This is called a lien.
A common example of a work comp. injury with third party liability is an on-the-job auto accident. If an employee is traveling to a work-related function for the employer and is involved in a car accident due to the fault of another, the employee will probably be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits for his or her injuries, but may also be permitted to file suite against the other driver under a third party claim for damages.
Another common example of third-party liability is in construction. If an employee is working on a large construction project and becomes injured from the neglect of another (such as an employee of another firm or sub-contractor) they may have a claim against that other firm or the general contractor who is in charge of safety on the job site.
Like a workers’ compensation claim, in most cases the third-party claim must be filed within two years of the date of the accident. In some cases involving a defect in design or machinery, the Statute of Limitations may extend up to ten years from the date the product was placed into use. An attorney should be consulted immediately regarding the limitations on any case as these are very fact sensitive issues.
One of the key differences between third-party claims and Work Comp. claims is the damages component. Unlike personal injury claims, Worker’s Compensation claims generally do not include benefits for pain and suffering. Third party claims may also compensate the injured person for future financial losses, while a workers’ compensation claim may rely on a permanent partial impairment rating for settlement.