Workers in California often depend on their equipment, not just to get the job done, but to provide a safe and reliable way to accomplish their tasks. When a job places a worker in harm's way, that worker does not want to worry that equipment will fail at the worst possible moment. However, these kinds of accidents happen all too often, prompting third-party cases that seek remuneration beyond workers' compensation.
Workers' compensation provides coverage for medical expenses and lost wages when a worker is hurt on the job. Because of this compensation, the worker forfeits the right to sue his or her employer if the accident occurred within the scope of the job. Unless the employer was grossly negligent or reckless, he or she cannot be held liable for a worker's injuries. On the other hand, if a worker's equipment fails and causes injury, the worker may be able to sue those parties related to the malfunctioning equipment. This is a third-party claim.
One example of this concerns a construction worker in another state. The 63-year-old man was working about 15 feet up on a scaffolding at a construction site at a university. When the scaffolding broke, the man fell to the ground and suffered injuries to his back and head. In this case, the worker would be within his rights to investigate the possibility of a third-party claim against any party responsible for the quality of the scaffolding.
Injured workers like this man are not able to receive compensation for medical bills and lost wages from both workers' compensation and a potential lawsuit. However, they may be able to file third-party cases for pain and suffering, and punitive damages, which are not covered by workers' compensation. Discussing this possibility with a California attorney will provide the appropriate guidance for each unique situation.
Source: wtvm.com, "Construction worker falls from scaffolding at Auburn University", J.T. Fellows, March 10, 2017