Getting your damages paid after a workplace injury can be complex. There are often Workers’ Compensation policies that cover your injuries and might restrict you from suing your employer. However, there might also be damages that Workers’ Compensation doesn’t cover and other parties you can sue for damages.
If you have already collected Workers’ Compensation benefits from your employer in New York, you might still be able to file a lawsuit against a third-party defendant. Workers’ Compensation pays 2/3 of your lost wages and all of your medical bills, but a third-party lawsuit could cover the remaining 1/3 of your lost wages as well as pain and suffering damages. However, the Workers’ Compensation insurance company is often entitled to claim back the damages they paid you.
For a free case review, call the Westchester personal injury lawyers at The Martello Law Firm today by dialing (914) 685-6950.
Can You File Both a Lawsuit and a Workers’ Compensation Claim in NY?
When someone is injured, they can usually file a lawsuit against the party who caused their injury. However, the Workers’ Compensation system was created to cut down on the number of lawsuits and give injured workers damages through an insurance system instead of the courts. To accomplish this, Workers’ Compensation rules block lawsuits against an employer – but they do not block lawsuits against other at-fault parties.
When you are injured at work, W.K.C. Law § 29 explicitly states that you do not have to choose between a Workers’ Compensation claim and a lawsuit against another liable party. While you cannot usually sue your employer, you could still be entitled to take the Workers’ Compensation benefits they offer and also sue another at-fault party other than your boss.
Under § 29, there are a few restrictions. For example, you usually need to file your claim within 6 months of receiving Workers’ Compensation benefits. Nonetheless, our New Rochelle personal injury lawyers can look into whether there is another party available to file the lawsuit against, what time limits exist, and whether you have a strong case against the other party.
Can You Sue an Employer for Work Injuries in NY?
Under NY law, workers are barred from suing their employer for work-related injuries. Instead, Workers’ Compensation is the “sole remedy” for these injury claims, and workers usually have to get benefits from their employer through that system instead of a lawsuit. Again, this does not block lawsuits against other parties – just your employer.
However, there are a few exceptions that allow lawsuits against employers in place of a Workers’ Compensation claim. First, if your employer violates the law and does not have Workers’ Compensation insurance, you are usually allowed to sue them instead. Second, your employer can usually be sued for intentional injuries, i.e., workplace violence.
However, there is another important restriction to remember that always applies to lawsuits for work-related injuries: fault. If your employer was not actually at fault, then you would never be able to sue them for the accident. Workers’ Compensation is a huge benefit to workers in cases where the employer did nothing wrong or where the injuries were caused by the worker’s own negligence. In those cases, a Workers’ Compensation claim is usually permitted, but a lawsuit wouldn’t be. Keep in mind, however, that you cannot get benefits for an injury you intentionally caused or caused by being drunk or on drugs at work.
Most workers qualify as “employees” for Workers’ Compensation purposes and are blocked from suing their employer, but properly classified independent contractors may still sue the party that hired them. Determining whether you qualify as a contractor or an employee is often a very fact-sensitive question and must be looked into on a case-by-case basis.
Getting Pain and Suffering and Lost Wages Above Workers’ Compensation Limits in New York
When you file a third-party lawsuit against another party, you can often get damages that Workers’ Compensation blocks. Workers’ Compensation typically pays only 2/3 of lost wages and covers nothing for pain and suffering. However, these damages are still allowed in a lawsuit against another party, filling in the damages your Workers’ Compensation claim did not cover.
In order to sue for these damages in the first place, you need to file a lawsuit against a third party that is actually at fault for your injuries. Many workplace accidents are caused by negligent drivers on the road, manufacturers of dangerous or defective equipment, or customers that cause accidents in the workplace. If this is the case, then you could be entitled to sue them alongside any Workers’ Compensation claims you file with your employer.
A lawsuit has no restrictions on damages like Workers’ Compensation does. This allows you to get full compensation for your lost wages, full compensation for medical bills, and full compensation for pain and suffering through a lawsuit. If you filed a Workers’ Compensation claim with your employer, you might have already received 2/3 of your lost wages and all of your medical expenses much faster than a lawsuit would have paid you.
Subrogation of Damages by Workers’ Compensation Insurance Company
Under § 29, your employer’s Workers’ Compensation insurance carrier is often entitled to file to have some of the winnings from your lawsuit paid back to them through a process called “subrogation.” Under § 29, the Workers’ Compensation insurance company gets an automatic lien against your settlement or jury award, allowing them to get reimbursed for the benefits they paid you before.
At the end of the day, this would ideally mean that you still get 100% of the damages you deserve. However, reality is often more complicated, and insurance companies often try to seek more money. This can have an especially bad impact on your total recovery if the third-party lawsuit ends up paying much lower damages than you had hoped, as a large portion of those damages could end up going to the Workers’ Compensation insurance company.
Call Our New York Work Injury Lawyers for Help
Contact The Martello Law Firm’s Yonkers personal injury attorneys for a free case review by calling (914) 685-6950.