Arizonans who are injured while they are working at their jobs are entitled to recover workers’ compensation benefits from their employers’ workers’ compensation insurance policies. However, they generally waive their rights to file lawsuits against their employers when they are injured at work in exchange for the availability of workers’ compensation benefits. While these benefits can help injured workers, they do not provide payments for pain and suffering or 100% of the workers’ lost income. Continue reading the topics below to learn why.
In some situations, however, employees might be allowed to file lawsuits against third parties while also filing workers’ compensation claims when their injuries were caused by another person or entity. Some exceptions might allow workers to file lawsuits against their employers to recover compensation for their economic and noneconomic losses.
The content below discusses the following topics:
- What to do Immediately After an Injury.
- What are Your Rights After Injured at Work?
- What is a Third-party Lawsuit?
- Third-party Lawsuits vs. Workers’ Compensation.
- What if my Employer Doesn’t Have Workers’ Comp Insurance?
- Another Company is At Fault.
- Examples of Work Place Injuries
- I was Injured Offsite.
- How Long Do I Have to File a Claim?
- Purpose of Hiring a Personal Injury Attorney.
What to do After an Injury at Work
If you are injured while working, there are several steps to take. These steps can help in your claim for compensation. If any of these steps are missed, that could make the difference of a solid case. Read below on how to protect your rights.
Step 1: Take care of your medical needs.
After you have sought medical treatment, notify your supervisor as soon as possible about your injury and how it occurred. You should complete the Worker’s and Physician’s Report of Injury form from the Industrial Commission of Arizona at your doctor’s office. Your doctor must file this form with the state within eight days of providing treatment to you. You must file your claim for workers’ compensation benefits within one year of your injury. The doctor will send a copy of the report of injury to the ICA, your employer, and the workers’ compensation insurance carrier of your employer. You are also allowed to report your injury to the ICA by filing the Worker’s Report of Injury form. Filing one of these forms initiates the workers’ compensation process in Arizona.
Step 2: Get the name and contact information of any other party involved.
If the other party works for a different company, you will need to get that company’s information. You should also write down the names and contact information of everyone who witnessed what happened. If you are too injured, have a co-worker or friend gather this information for you.
Step 3: Take pictures of your injuries and the scene of the accident if possible.
If you cannot take pictures, ask someone else to take them for you. As soon as you can, write down everything that you remember leading up to the accident and include the date, time, and names of everyone who was involved.
Step 4: Schedule a consultation with an experienced work injury lawyer at Hutzler Law.
Bring the names of witnesses, your photographs, and your description of what happened. You should also get copies of your medical bills and doctors’ reports about your injuries and the treatment that you have received.
Your Rights After an Injury at Work
Workers who are injured while they are working within the scope and course of their employment are entitled to receive workers’ compensation benefits from their employers. When a third party caused the injury accident, you can also file a claim against that party. Filing a negligence claim against the third party might allow you to recover damages for losses that are not covered by workers’ compensation benefits, including all of your wages, the physical pain and suffering that you have experienced, emotional or mental anguish, and others.
What is a Third-Party Lawsuit for Work Injuries?
A third-party lawsuit is a claim that is filed against a liable party that is not your employer. This type of claim might be filed when a different company or person directly or proximately caused your work injuries. For example, if a subcontractor who was present at your worksite negligently caused your injuries, you might be able to file a lawsuit against the subcontractor for negligence while also filing a claim with your employer’s workers’ compensation insurance. Filing a third-party lawsuit might allow you to recover more compensation so that all of your losses will be covered.
Third-party Lawsuit vs. Workers’ Compensation Claim
In a workers’ compensation claim, you are not required to prove that your employer was negligent to recover compensation for your medical costs and a portion of your lost wages that resulted from your work injury under A.R.S. § 23-1021. While this is an easier process for damages recovery from work injuries, a workers’ compensation claim will not fully compensate you for your losses when you have suffered serious injuries.
By contrast, if a third party negligently caused your work injuries, you can file a claim with your employer’s worker’s compensation insurance while also filing a separate negligence lawsuit against the third party. In the third-party claim, you will have the burden of proving the evidence, the elements of the third party’s negligence. These elements include the following:
- You suffered an injury in a work-related accident;
- The third party owed a duty of care to you;
- The third party breached the duty of care;
- The breach was a direct or proximate cause of the accident and your injuries; and
- You suffered harm as a result.
If your injury attorney can prove these elements and your damages to the trier of fact, you can recover damages to compensate you for the losses that were not compensated by workers’ compensation insurance.
What if the Company I Work For Doesn’t Have Workers’ Comp Insurance?
Employers that fail to carry workers’ compensation insurance to protect their employees can be sued by their employees for their injuries and their resulting losses under A.R.S. § 23-907. If your employer failed to carry workers’ compensation coverage, you will be allowed to recover all of the damages that you have suffered, including your full lost wages, your future anticipated lost wages, your past and future medical losses, pain and suffering, and other noneconomic losses.
Workers’ compensation also will not protect employers from liability in lawsuits that result from an assault by the employer on an employee. In nearly every case, an assault by an employer on an employee will void the no-fault protection of workers’ compensation insurance coverage. The employer might also face criminal charges in this type of scenario. Employers will not be liable to pay damages in an assault when they acted in self-defense.
For example, if you start a fight with your employer and are injured, you will not be able to recover damages in a lawsuit or through a workers’ compensation claim.
What if Another Company is at Fault for my Workplace Injury?
Many work settings have people from several companies working within them simultaneously. When an employee of a different company negligently causes an accident that injures an employee of another company, the injured victim may file a lawsuit against the negligent worker and the negligent worker’s employer. This can provide you with the ability to recover full compensation for your losses.
There are several common scenarios in which people might be injured at work by another company, including the following:
- Car accidents while working in the scope and course of your employment
- Accidents on construction sites
- Accidents caused by the negligence of a property owner
- Product defects
- Manufacturers of toxic substances
Examples of Work Related Injuries
If you drive as a part of your job and are injured in a car accident that was caused by the negligence of someone else, you can file a lawsuit against the third party that caused the accident. You can also file a workers’ compensation claim with your employer’s insurance carrier. For example, if you work as a pizza delivery person and are struck by a drunk driver while you are out on a delivery, you are entitled to recover workers’ compensation benefits while also filing a personal injury claim against the negligent drunk driver who caused the accident. In this scenario, the delivery driver may have to reimburse workers’ compensation for the amounts that were awarded for medical expenses and a percentage of his or her lost wages but can keep the remaining damages.
Construction sites are very common places for third-party claims arising from work accidents. If you work at a construction site and are injured by an employee of a different company at the site, you can file a claim for damages against that worker and his or her company while filing a workers’ compensation claim with your employer. For example, if you are struck by someone from a subcontractor company while he or she is negligently operating a forklift, you are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits from your employer and to file a negligence claim against the other company and its employee who injured you.
Property owners may sometimes be liable in third-party negligence claims. For example, if you work on someone’s property that your employer does not manage or own, you may have grounds to file a third-party lawsuit against the property owner if you are injured because of hazardous conditions that existed on the property.
Product defects may also be an avenue of recovery through a third-party work injury claim. For example, if you were injured by a malfunctioning tool that you were using in the way in which the manufacturer intended, you may have grounds to file a lawsuit against the product’s manufacturer in addition to your workers’ compensation claim.
The manufacturer of toxic substances may also be liable in cases in which exposure to the toxic substance caused the worker’s injuries. These substances can include asbestos, lead paint, fumes, chemicals, and other substances that directly or proximately cause injuries.
A common example of this type of liability involves asbestos exposure. If you develop mesothelioma after workplace exposure to asbestos fibers, you may have grounds to file a lawsuit against the manufacturer. If you can prove that your employer knew that the asbestos was present but failed to properly remove it, you might also be able to sue your employer.
What if I was Hurt Offsite but Working?
Third-party lawsuits can be filed against individuals who injure workers off of the worksite when the workers were operating within the scope and course of their jobs at the time of the accidents. In this type of situation, you can also file a workers’ compensation claim.
How Long Do I Have to File a Claim? Statute of Limitations
As previously discussed, workers’ compensation claims must be filed no later than one year from the date of your injury. For a third-party claim against a negligent party other than your employer, Arizona’s personal injury statute of limitations will apply. Under A.R.S. § 12-542, you will have two years from the date of your injury, the date that you discovered your injury, or the date that you reasonably should have discovered your injury to file a lawsuit against the responsible third party.
Get Help from Hutzler Law
Being seriously injured in a work accident can leave you facing substantial losses while you are simultaneously trying to recover. If a third party caused the accident and your resulting injuries, you may be entitled to file a negligence lawsuit against the third party while you also pursue a workers’ compensation claim through your employer. The attorneys at Hutzler Law can review what occurred in your case and advise you of your rights. Contact us today by calling 602.730.4530 to schedule a free consultation.