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Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Third Parties in California Workers’ Compensation Cases

Q: What is a third party in a workers’ compensation case?

A:  A typical workers’ compensation case in California consists of two parties, including the employer and the injured employee.  In these cases, no matter how you were injured, your employer’s workers’ compensation insurance should cover your injuries as long as they occurred while you were on the job.  In other words, workers’ compensation is considered a no fault system.  But if your injuries were the result of someone else’s negligence, or was the fault of a third party who is not your employer or yourself, then you might have a claim against that other person based on general negligence theories.  For instance, if you are driving a vehicle while on the job as part of your work duties, and another driver’s negligence causes an accident and you are injured, then not only will you be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits since you were injured at work, but you may also be able to make a personal injury claim against the other driver.

Q:  Does this mean that the third party is also part of my workers’ compensation case?

A:  No, just because there is a third party involved does not mean that they are part of your workers’ compensation case.  Your third party case and your workers’ comp case are separate.  Your third party case will be handled in civil court just like other personal injury cases while your workers’ comp case will be heard before a special workers’ compensation court also known as the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board.

Q:  So if another individual is responsible for my injuries, should I just drop my workers’ compensation case? 

A:  While you are entitled to waive your rights to workers’ compensation benefits and simply pursue compensation from the third party at fault, any experienced California Workers’ Compensation Lawyer would probably advise you that this is not a good idea.  It is important to remember that through workers’ compensation, you are entitled to medical benefits, disability benefits, and vocational rehabilitation.

Q:  So what happens if I decide to pursue both a workers’ compensation and a personal injury claim?

A:  In most cases, if you pursue both claims, then your employer can usually claim a lien on any recovery you receive from the third party.  What this means is that the workers’ compensation insurer will be able to claim reimbursement of any of your expenses they’ve already paid for including medical bills and other benefits.  The workers’ compensation insurer may also claim credit to any remainder of the money you receive in your third party claim so as to cover future costs that might be associated with medical treatment or disability payments.  But if your employer’s negligent actions also contributed to your injuries, then the extent to which you have to reimburse your employer may be limited.

Dedicated and Knowledgeable Workers’ Compensation Lawyer in California

If you have been injured at the workplace or are suffering from a work-related illness, particularly if your injury or illness occurred in the San Bernardino, Hemet, or Inland Empire areas, you might be entitled to benefits under California’s workers’ compensation law.  If you think your injuries might be the result of the negligent actions of someone other than your employer, then you might also be able to pursue a third party personal injury claim. Attorney Albert Hirst is a San Bernardino Workers’ Compensation lawyer who has the experience and the resources necessary to help you obtain the compensation you need and deserve so call us today at (909) 885-7190 to schedule your free consultation and learn what we can do for you.