Workers Must Join in Third Party Complaints

December 26, 2018

best workers compensation lawyer PhiladelphiaIt is well-established that Pennsylvania employees may bring a legal claim against third parties who caused their workplace injuries. If a worker prevails in his or her third-party claim, then the employer’s workers’ compensation carrier may collect repayment for benefits it already paid out in a process called subrogation.

However, if the injured worker does not sue the third-party, can the workers’ compensation insurer still recover? The Pennsylvania Supreme Court recently clarified that an insurer may not bring an independent cause of action against a third-party unless the worker assigns his or her case or is a party to the lawsuit.

Pennsylvania Supreme Court Ruling Regarding Third-Party Complaints

In the state Supreme Court case, an injured worker received medical and wage benefits from her employer’s workers’ compensation insurer when she was injured by a driver in a rental car parking lot. The worker did not file suit against the third-party driver who caused the accident or the rental car company. Nearly two years after the accident, her employer’s insurance company sought to recover damages from the two responsible parties.

However, the complaint was not verified by the worker, nor was she a party to the lawsuit. The Court held that workers’ compensation carriers cannot file lawsuits “on behalf of” an injured worker without that worker’s consent. An insurer therefore does not have an independent ability to file a third-party subrogation claim without the injured worker being a party to the suit because it is the worker, not the insurance company, who is entitled to a cause of action against the third party.

Third-Party Causes of Action in Pennsylvania

In Pennsylvania, injured workers are generally eligible to collect workers’ compensation benefits, including medical expenses and lost wages, for any workplace injuries they sustain. The workers’ compensation system is no-fault, meaning that workers are entitled to collect such benefits regardless of who was at fault for the accident. In exchange, workers may not sue their employers in a personal injury lawsuit for their workplace injuries.

However, if a third party caused a worker’s injuries, then the worker may attempt to hold that party responsible for his or her negligence in a third-party personal injury claim. This type of claim can be filed concurrently with a workers’ compensation claim and allows workers to recover additional damages that are not available in the form of workers’ compensation benefits, such as pain and suffering and emotional distress.

Some examples of third parties include manufacturers of defective equipment, manufacturers of toxic substances, government entities that failed to properly warn about hazards, subcontractors, and property owners. In Pennsylvania, the statute of limitations for third-party personal injury lawsuits is two years from the date of the injury, therefore it is important to seek legal counsel as soon as possible following a workplace accident.

Philadelphia Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at Larry Pitt & Associates, P.C. Help Injured Workers Recover Additional Compensation from Responsible Third-Parties

If someone other than your employer caused your workplace injuries, you may be entitled to additional forms of compensation. An experienced Philadelphia workers’ compensation lawyer at Larry Pitt & Associates, P.C. can help evaluate your case to determine your best course of legal action for maximum recovery. Our skilled attorneys represent clients in Philadelphia and throughout the state of Pennsylvania. Schedule a free consultation by calling 888-PITT-LAW or complete our online contact form.

We assist injured workers in Berks CountyBucks CountyChester CountyDelaware CountyMontgomery County, and Philadelphia County, as well as those in the communities of AbingtonAmblerArdmoreBala CynwydBensalemClifton HeightsCrum LynneDarbyDowningtownDoylestownDrexel HillEssingtonFolcroftGlenoldenHaverfordHavertownHolmesKutztownLansdowneMediaMerion StationMortonNarberthNorristownNorwoodPhiladelphiaProspect ParkQuakertownReadingRoxboroughSharon HillUpper DarbyWest Chester and WynnewoodPennsylvania.