Most workers in Texas are aware that the state has a limited workers compensation system that provides compensation for injuries that are suffered on the job. Unlike most states, however, Texas allows employers to decline workers compensation coverage for injuries suffered by their employees.
Employees of an employer who elects to decline workers compensation coverage, called non-subscribers, still have certain important rights if they suffer an injury at work. One of the most important of such rights is the right to sue any party whose negligence may have caused the injury. Such claims are called third party claims.
What is a third-party claim?
In the modern U.S. economy, a single work place may often have employees from more than one employer. Having employees of more than one employer is especially common on large construction work sites, where many subcontractors are hired for specific tasks.
For example, an employee of the general contractor may suffer an injury because an employee of the plumbing subcontractor was negligent in installing overhead piping. The injured employee cannot sue his employer if the employer has opted to include its workers in the workers’ compensation system. The injured employee may, however, elect to sue the plumbing subcontractor for damages.
This claim is called a “third party claim” because the defendant subcontractor is referred to as a third-party defendant under Texas’ rules of civil procedure.
Understanding the third-party claim
The injured worker who decides to assert a claim for damages must start a law suit in the proper Texas district court. The case will proceed much like any civil case, subject to certain requirements to provide notice to the employer and its workers’ compensation insurer.
If the employee can prove that the third-party defendant’s employee was negligent, the jury will decide how much the worker can recover for medical expenses, lost income, future lost income and pain and suffering.
Any worker who has suffered a workplace injury and is interested in pursuing a claim for negligence against a third party may benefit from consulting an experienced personal injury attorney for an evaluation of the evidence, legal arguments to support the claim, and an estimate of the likelihood of recovering damages.