WHAT IS A “THIRD PARTY” CASE? WHERE WORKERS’ COMPENSATION AND PERSONAL INJURY INTERSECT
Generally, any time a worker in California is injured at work or while performing their job duties, they are limited to filing what is commonly referred to as a “Work Comp” claim or case. This type of claim can help an injured worker get medical help needed for their injury and wages while they are recovering. Heiting & Irwin has a fabulous Workers’ Compensation Department headed by State Bar Certified Specialist Attorney Richard Irwin for more information on or representation in those types of matters.
However, in certain circumstances, the injured worker may also be able to pursue what is known as a “third party claim”. This is a lawsuit that tries to get the injured worker compensation for their injuries, including other medical expenses not covered by Workers’ Compensation, pain and suffering for the past and the future, lost wages for the past, and loss of future wages or earnings capacity that result from the injury.
As you can tell, there are more things that can be compensated in this type of “third party claim”. In order to have a “third party claim”, however, the worker’s injury must have been caused in some way by the negligence of someone other than worker, the worker’s employer, or the worker’s co-workers. A common example of this type of “third party claim” from a car accident that occurs while someone is “on the job”, where, for instance, a police officer is stopped at a red light while in her patrol car and a private citizen rear-ends the vehicle, causing physical harm to the officer. Not only would the police officer have a Workers’ Compensation claim, she would also have a “third party claim” against the private citizen, who is not affilliated with the police department in any way.
Sometimes, the existence of a “third party claim” is not so obvious, and this is why it is always important to speak with an experienced attorney when an injury occurs on the job. I read about a recent tragedy where a very young man who worked at Terra Lago golf course in Indio was killed after the enclosed maintenance golf cart he was driving became submerged in a canal located on the course. (See: https://www.sacbee.com/news/nation-world/national/article257481994.html) At first glance, it might appear that there is no “third party claim” because no third party seems to be involved. However, there are many facts that might give rise to a “third party claim”. Did the golf cart crash because an outside mechanic didn’t fix the brakes properly? Was there a defect in the design of the golf cart or the golf course that contributed to the death?
Unfortunately, there is no amount of money that will give that young man his life back. However, if a “third party claim” does exist, there are ways to at least provide for any surviving spouse or dependents that would otherwise struggle financially and emotionally in the absence of their loved one. Luckily for the surviving family members, there are firms out there like Heiting & Irwin, that can assist in evaluating and handling both types of cases with a single call.