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Can workers file third-party cases after workplace accidents?

California construction companies are normally protected against facing personal injury claims if they offer their employees the coverage of workers' compensation insurance. The workers' compensation insurance fund affords workers the opportunity to claim compensation for injuries suffered in construction accidents without having to prove fault of negligence on the part of the employer or a colleague. However, there are circumstances where workers may have legal claims to file third-party cases after suffering workplace injuries.

In the event of a work injury suffered as the result of the negligence of a third-party, the possibility of a civil claim may exist. Such claims typically include circumstances where the malfunction of defective equipment causes physical injury to a worker. The injured worker may then file a claim against the manufacturer of the equipment. Another example is when the negligence of an independent contractor causes injury to a worker, for example, when a contracted truck driver enters your work area and knocks you down.

Injuries suffered while a worker is on duty, but away from the work site, may also give rise to a third-party claim. For instance, when an on-duty worker is driving off-site and is involved in an accident that was caused by the negligence of another party, the worker may be entitled to take legal action. A civil claim against the other driver, along with any separate owner of the vehicle, may be viable.

It is important for California workers to note that workers' compensation benefits do not cover mental and physical pain and suffering or any additional damages suffered in workplace accidents, while such damages may be awarded in third-party cases. Injured workers who feel unsure or intimidated by the legalities of such claims may benefit from consulting with an attorney to determine whether a civil claim is viable. This will also provide you with up-to-date laws and advice on how to best protect your rights.

Source: FindLaw, "Workers' Compensation: Can I Sue My Employer Instead?", , Sept. 2. 2014

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