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What If Someone Other Than My Employer Causes a Workplace Accident?


You probably know that if you are injured at work, you can receive workers’ compensation benefits to pay for your medical bills and lost wages. Workers’ compensation effectively serves as a substitute–an “exclusive remedy,” in legal terms–for filing a personal injury lawsuit against your employer. But what if your workplace accident was actually the result of a third party’s negligence?

Judge Lets Lawsuit Over Defective Compressor Proceed

You can, in fact, sue the third party. Workers’ compensation only covers your employer’s liability. However, your employer may file a lien against any judgment you win to repay it for any workers’ compensation benefits you already received.

Of course, first you need to prove the third party was responsible. If a judge determines your employer was solely responsible for your injuries, you may not recover anything against a third party, even if there was some evidence it was involved in the accident. This gives the third party an incentive to prove your injuries were solely the fault of your employer.

For example, in a pending case before a federal judge in Nashville, an employee sued a third-party company over injuries he sustained at work. The third party and the plaintiff’s employer–who share the same attorney–maintain the employer was solely at fault. And since the employer has already paid workers’ compensation benefits, the defendant asked the judge to dismiss the case.

The judge declined to do so. First a brief explanation of what happened. The employer repairs equipment for a large chain store. The store is the defendant. In 2014, the defendant sent a large piece of equipment–an air compressor weighing several hundred pounds–to the employer for repair. During the course of the repair work, the compressor tipped over and broke the employee’s leg.

The employee’s lawsuit claims the defendant sent the air compressor to the employer in an unsafe condition and failed to provide proper instructions on how to handle the equipment. The defendant replied that it was the employer’s “intervening acts” during the nine days it had possession of the compressor that was the “sole” cause of the plaintiff’s injuries.

The judge decided there was enough of a factual dispute to send this case to a jury. The judge noted the defendant “provided no instructions, written or otherwise,” regarding the safe handling of the compressor. And even if the employer was negligent, there was evidence that the defendant should have foreseen such negligence and taken appropriate action to prevent the employee’s injuries. Additionally, the jury could also determine that none of the employer’s actions “were independently sufficient” to cause the plaintiff’s injuries.

Get Help From a Clinton Personal Injury Attorney

After suffering a serious workplace injury, you might be inclined to simply accept whatever workers’ compensation benefits you are offered and be done with the matter. But if a third party was responsible for your accident, you have a legal right to pursue that claim in court. If you need help from an experienced Knoxville personal injury lawyer, contact the offices of Fox, Farley, Willis & Burnette, Attorneys at Law, right away.



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