If you were injured at work or while doing a work activity, your first instinct may be to file a workers’ compensation claim. However, you may also have the opportunity to file a third party liability claim to get justice. Workers’ compensation laws do not prevent you from filing a personal injury lawsuit directly against the third party who is responsible for your injuries.
Third party liability refers to a bodily injury a person suffers because of a third party’s negligent or reckless actions or omissions. Third party liability exists when an individual or entity that is separate from the worker’s employer causes work-related harm, such as a visitor, customer, or vendor in the workplace.
When you’re hurt at work, there are numerous parties that could be held negligent besides your employer, such as:
- Contractors/Subcontractors: A workplace may have contractors and/or subcontractors performing tasks at their workplace near employees. This is especially common on construction sites, in coal mines, and at oil drilling sites. If a contractor or subcontractor causes a workplace injury to an employee, they could be held directly liable through a third-party liability lawsuit.
- Vehicle Drivers: If an employee is driving a company car or driving their own car on an errand from their employer and gets into an accident with a driver unconnected to the employer, the driver who caused the accident can still be held directly responsible. These motor vehicle accidents occur commonly in the transportation industry, on construction job sites, and other industries where workers do a lot of driving.
- Product Manufacturers: Workplace accidents and injuries can also be caused by defective or dangerous products. This is especially prevalent in industries where large pieces of equipment and heavy machinery are used, such as construction, manufacturing, and coal and oil. When a defective product causes your workplace injury, you can file a product liability claim against the product’s manufacturer, supplier, or distributor. If the worker makes a claim against a product manufacturer, the worker can potentially bring a strict liability claim in which the product manufacturer can be held liable by just proving that there was a defect in the product and the defect caused the plaintiff’s harm.
- Property Owners: If your work involves working on or visiting off-site properties that do not belong to your employer, the property owners have a duty to keep you safe and keep the property free from known hazards. However, property owners don’t always take the necessary steps to make sure those who are working on their property are safe. If the property owner’s negligence causes injury to the worker, the worker could file a premises liability claim. An example of this is if you work as a salesperson, lawfully enter another person’s property on a sales call, and are bitten by a dog.
- Construction Companies or Firms: Third party liability often occurs on construction sites because there are often workers from a variety of companies at the job site. If you work for a subcontractor on a construction site and suffer an injury, you may be able to make a third-party liability claim against the general contractor because they are usually responsible for safety on the job site.
- Toxic Substance Manufacturers: If you are injured by toxic chemicals or dangerous substances while at work, you can file a third-party liability claim against the manufacturer of these substances.
Proving Third Party Liability Cases
In order for a plaintiff to prove a third party liability claim, the plaintiff must show the third party (1) owed the plaintiff a duty of care, (2) breached their duty of care, (3) their actions caused the plaintiff’s harm, and (4) the plaintiff suffered damages.