Third-Party Work Injury Claims In South Carolina
As a general rule, a worker who is injured on the job or the heirs of a worker who is killed at work cannot bring a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit against the employer. Except in very rare cases, the only action that can be taken against the employer is a claim for workers’ compensation benefits.
This agreement lies at the heart of the South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Act. In exchange for providing workers’ compensation benefits for employees, employers are shielded from being sued by them. Also, employees do not need to establish that anyone was at fault in order to recover these benefits.
However, if someone other than your employer caused the injury, it is a different matter. That party could be sued in a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit. These are called “third-party claims.” These actions can result in additional compensation. However, they do require establishing the other party’s fault.
If you believe that you may have a third-party claim after suffering a work injury, call Harrison, White, Smith & Coggins, P.C., or submit our online form. We have decades of experience with helping injured workers and their families throughout Spartanburg, Greenville and across the Upstate. We can provide the thorough investigation and careful handling that your case needs.
When Can You Pursue a Third-Party Claim?
A third-party injury claim is, in many ways, the same as any personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit. You have to establish the other party’s fault. These claims may arise in situations that involve:
- Auto accidents – If a worker is injured by a careless or reckless driver while carrying out his or her work duties, the worker could bring a car accident claim against the driver.
- Defective products – If a worker is injured by a defective piece of equipment or other product that he or she used while on the job, the worker could bring a product liability claim against the manufacturer, distributor and seller. Liability may be based on the defect causing the injury or the injury resulting from an inadequate warning.
- Non-employer site owners, supervisors or managers – Parties other than your employer who have a duty to make sure a work site is safe may be held liable if they fail to live up to that duty, and a worker suffers an injury as a result. In some cases, a claim may arise from workers being exposed to environmentally contaminated property.
- Outside vendors (contractors or subcontractors) – If an employer hires an outside vendor to provide security, maintenance, cleaning, cooking or any other services, that vendor can be sued if its negligence causes injury to a worker.
A worker or the worker’s heirs generally must initiate a third-party injury claim within one year from the date that an employer or the employer’s workers’ compensation insurer accepts liability for workers’ compensation benefits.
Why Would You Pursue a Third-Party Claim?
South Carolina workers’ compensation benefits are not designed to make an injured worker or the worker’s heirs “whole” after a serious or fatal on-the-job injury.
If a worker is injured, workers’ compensation benefits would pay for medical expenses, but it would cover only up to two-thirds of the workers’ lost wages. The worker’s pain and suffering and emotional distress would not be covered.
If a worker is killed, workers’ compensation benefits would cover medical bills and funeral costs incurred, but it would not compensate family members for the loss of companionship and support.
These are reasons why injured workers and heirs seek to pursue third-party claims when they are available. If a worker does not pursue the claim, the worker’s employer or workers’ compensation insurer has a right to do so.
If you choose to pursue a third-party claim in your case, it is important to work with a lawyer who has experience with these cases. They must be handled carefully.
For instance, certain notices must be filed if a third-party claim is pursued. Additionally, the workers’ compensation insurer will have a “lien” on any recovery obtained through a third-party claim. So, it will be essential for your lawyer to resolve that lien before reaching any settlement with the third party.
Contact a Spartanburg Third-Party Injury Claim Lawyer Today
If you are an injured worker or the heir of a deceased worker in Spartanburg, Greenville or elsewhere in the Upstate who is considering a third-party claim, a lawyer from Harrison, White, Smith & Coggins, P.C., can review your case in a free consultation. Simply call or contact us online today and allow us to get started.