Imagine you’re a delivery driver taking a package to someone in downtown Chicago. Traffic is jammed in your lane, and you’re stuck waiting for the cars in front of you to start moving again. While you’re sitting there, a truck comes up behind you and the driver doesn’t notice the stalled traffic in time. The truck rear-ends you, and you end up with whiplash and a slipped disc from the impact.
The pain in your back and neck prevents you from driving, which means you’re out of work until you recover — and a doctor has said that you’ll probably need surgery to fix your back. Because your accident happened in the course of your employment, you can file a workers compensation claim to get your medical costs covered and collect temporary disability benefits while you’re unable to work. Workers compensation is a no-fault system, and as long as you can show that you were injured on the job you can make a claim.
But what about that truck driver who caused your injuries by failing to pay attention to traffic? In Illinois, you also may be able to make a personal injury claim outside of the workers compensation system and seek compensation for your injuries and other damages.
Illinois allows what is known as a third-party claim when you’re injured in a work-related accident that is caused either in whole or in part by the negligence, recklessness, or intentional action of some outside person, such as the truck driver in the hypothetical above. That claim could be in the form of a claim made against the third party’s insurance policy, or a personal injury lawsuit filed in a civil court.
If another party is negligent in causing your injuries, a third-party personal injury claim allows you to seek compensation of your medical costs, lost wages, pain and suffering, disability and disfigurement, and loss of normal life. Making a personal injury claim in addition to your workers compensation claim allows you to seek recovery of damages not covered by workers compensation, and may come closer to making you whole after your accident by compensating you for injuries such as the emotional trauma you suffered or the loss of your normal life outside of work.
When a third party is responsible for your injuries, your employer also may be able to seek compensation from the third party to recover the value of workers compensation benefits paid to you because of the accident.
Establishing Third-Party Liability
Because workers compensation is a no-fault system, you don’t have to prove negligence to get workers compensation benefits. You basically just have to prove that you were injured in the course of your employment.
But for a third-party personal injury claim, you will have to prove negligence on the part of the third party. To establish that the other person is liable for your injuries, you have to demonstrate using evidence and testimony that:
- There was an accident
- The other person caused the accident by doing something unreasonable or failing to take an action that was reasonable
- You were injured in a way that can be compensated
- Your injuries were caused by the accident
- Your injuries were foreseeable
Common Types of Third-Party Accidents
Any combination of circumstances and people can come together to cause a work-related accident, but some are more common than others. Many work-related accidents that involve liability by a third party tend to fall into one of these categories:
- Auto Collisions — When you’re driving in the course of your employment and get involved in a crash caused by someone else, you may have a personal injury claim in addition to being able to collect workers compensation benefits.
- Construction Site Accidents — Construction sites often bring together people from various companies because different contractors or subcontractors handle different aspects of construction. You might be working for the general contractor putting steel beams into place, and someone working for the separate contractor handling the HVAC installation causes an accident in which you’re injured. When your construction accident is caused by someone other than your employer or someone working for your employer, you may have a third-party personal injury claim.
- Slip and Fall Accidents — If you were injured on someone else’s premises in the course of your employment, such as tripping on torn carpet at a hotel where you’re having a business meeting, you may have a third-party personal injury claim against the owner or occupier of the premises.
How a Lawyer Can Help
If you’ve been injured on the job in an accident caused by an outside party, a lawyer who is experienced with both workers compensation and personal injury claims can help you determine your options for compensation. You may be able to file both claims, and a Chicago personal injury attorney can help you through the process of both.