When it works as it was designed to, the Texas workers’ compensation system provides a relatively streamlined process for injured workers to get the benefits they need to pay for medical care and cope with the aftermath of an injury. They don’t necessarily have to prove that their workplace was unsafe or that their employer did anything wrong. All they have to prove in order to be eligible for the benefits is that the injury occurred in the course of their employment.
There is a tradeoff for this simplified process. After an injured worker has collected workers’ compensation benefits, the worker is barred from filing a personal injury lawsuit against their employer if it involves the same injury.
To illustrate this idea, imagine Thomas is injured in an accident at work. He applies for and receives workers’ compensation benefits while he is recovering. Several months later, he finds out that his accident was caused by his employer’s negligence. In a personal injury lawsuit, Thomas might be able to recover a greater amount in compensation than he received in workers’ compensation benefits. Unfortunately for Thomas, he is most likely barred from filing such a lawsuit against his employer because he has already collected benefits related to the same injury.
The tradeoff of workers’ compensation law bars the employee from filing a lawsuit against their employer related to the same injury, but it doesn’t bar them from filing a lawsuit against a third party. This can be important in cases involving construction sites and other workplaces where several employers are operating at the same time.
Imagine Thomas, from our previous example, works for ABC Construction and is injured at a construction site in an accident caused by a crane operator who worked for XYZ Construction. Thomas can collect workers’ compensation benefits through ABC Construction, and he is not barred from filing a lawsuit against XYZ Construction.
Third-party liability lawsuits can be tricky. Injured workers should speak with a lawyer who is familiar with both workers’ compensation and personal injury law.