Third Party Cases

If you are injured while working on a construction site, in a factory or while operating a vehicle, you could be entitled to the all the benefits provided by the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act. In addition, you could be entitled to recover substantial damages in a Third Party lawsuit, from a person or company, other than your employer (or one of their employees) who caused, in whole or in part, your accident.

Considering the complex nature of Third Party cases and the need for timely actions, it is critical that you contact a qualified Personal Injury attorney at Donald W. Fohrman & Associates, Ltd., as soon as possible after an accident.

The following is intended to provide basic legal and practical information regarding Third Party lawsuits.


FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT THIRD PARTY LAWSUITS

  1. What is a “Third Party” case?
  2. Who are frequent “third parties?”
  3. Are there greater monetary recoveries under a Third Party case compared to a Workers’ Compensation claim?
  4. Is there a Statute of Limitations in Third Party cases?
  5. What actions can a worker take to protect and preserve his potential Third Party case?
  6. Is it necessary for an injured worker to retain an attorney to pursue a Third Party case?

1.  What is a “Third Party” case?

A. The Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act provides that a worker who sustains an on-the-job injury, cannot file a lawsuit against his employer, regardless of whether some action or negligent conduct of his employer clearly caused or contributed to the worker’s accident. Therefore, the sole remedy the worker has relative to his employer, are his benefits provided by the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act.

However, the injured worker could have the right to receive substantial additional monetary damages in the form of a “Third Party” lawsuit if the facts of the accident establish that a third party, other than his employer or a co-worker, was in whole or in part, legally responsible for the accident. If these circumstances exist, the injured worker could file a lawsuit against the legally responsible “third party or parties.”

2. Who are frequent “third parties.”

A. Whether a third party can be held legally responsible for the worker’s injuries depends on the facts and circumstances surrounding the worker’s job-related accident.

The best way to illustrate possible Third Party situations follows:

(a) Claims Against General Contractors. The most frequent on-the-job accidents involving third parties occur on construction sites. At a construction site, there are workers representing building trades (carpenters, electricians, ironworkers, plumbers, pipefitters, sheet metal workers, laborers, etc.) performing their duties. These workers are frequently employed by subcontractors who, in turn, are hired by a General Contractor. If a workers is injured as a result of negligent conduct by an employee of another subcontractor, the injured worker could have a potential Third Party case against the subcontractor, general contractor or possibly, the owner of the property where the accident occurred.

(b) Defective Machinery. A Third Party case may result if a worker is injured as a result of defective equipment or tools (ladders, power drills, power saws, etc.) This type of case is referred to as a “Products Liability” lawsuit which could be filed against the manufacturer of the defective piece of equipment or tool. More information about Products Liability

(c) Negligent Motorist. Another typical example of a Third Party case would be a truck driver injured (while working) in an automobile accident caused as a result of a negligent driver. In this case, the truck driver would have a Third Party case against the negligent driver of the other vehicle involved in the accident.

(d) Slip and Fall Accidents. If an employee is injured on the property of another person, he or she might have a premises liability claim against the negligent property owner or manager.

(e) Medical Malpractice. If an injured worker’s condition is exacerbated by the negligence of a doctor, nurse, or hospital, he or she might have a medical malpractice claim as well.

3. Are there greater monetary recoveries under a Third Party case compared to a Workers’ Compensation claim?

A. Yes, the monetary recovery (damages) to any injured worker in a Third Party case is usually considerably greater than a Workers’ Compensation settlement or award of the Illinois Industrial Commission.

Unlike a Workers’ Compensation claim which is a claim filed with the Illinois Industrial Commission, a Third Party case is a lawsuit filed in the Circuit or Federal courts. As opposed to a Workers’ Compensation claim, a Third Party case generally has no limitations on the amount of recovery an injured person can receive. A judge or jury in determining damages in a Third Party case, may consider the worker’s pain and suffering, future loss of earnings, inability to perform non-work activities and the amount of medical expenses. Lastly, Third Party cases frequently involve multiple defendants which increases the potential for considerably higher recoveries of damages.

4.  Is there a Statute of Limitations in Third Party cases?

A. Yes, an injured worker must file a civil complaint against responsible third parties in the Circuit or Federal courts generally within two (2) years from the date of the worker’s accident. Failure to file a lawsuit within two (2) years from the date of the accident may result in forfeiture of any claims or rights the worker may have had against the third party.

5.  What actions can a worker take to protect and preserve his potential Third Party case?

A. In order to receive monetary damages, an injured worker must prove that a Third Party was negligent or otherwise legally responsible for the accident. Therefore, a worker should take the following actions to preserve his rights and maximize his recovery in the event an experienced and knowledgeable Third Party attorney determines that the worker has a viable Third Party case:

(a) An injured worker should not give any statements, recorded or transcribed to anyone other than his attorney or an investigator from his attorney’s office.

(b) As soon as possible after the accident, the worker (or a friend or co-worker) should take pictures of the accident scene, the mechanical device or scaffold or possible hazardous conditions surrounding the job-site.

(c) If possible, the worker should try to secure potential evidence such as ladders, portable equipment, etc.

(d) The worker should try to obtain the names and addresses of any potential witnesses or legally responsible third parties.

6.  Is it necessary for an injured worker to retain an attorney to pursue a Third Party case.

A. Absolutely! You should contact a qualified Personal Injury attorney as soon as practical after sustaining a work-related injury. Consider the following reasons why:

  • Due to the complex nature of Third Party cases, it is imperative that a worker retain an attorney who is experienced in the handling of Third Party matters.
  • Only an experienced attorney can determine the potential existence of a Third Party claim, identify the legally responsible parties, and take proper action to recover damages on the injured worker’s behalf.
  • Contacting an attorney immediately following an accident involving a third party is necessary to protect the injured worker’s Third Party case. By contacting an attorney in a timely manner, he can arrange for an investigator to be at the scene of the accident within hours, to take pictures of the accident site or take statements from witnesses who could be pertinent to a subsequent Third Party lawsuit.
  • As in serious Workers’ Compensation accidents, employers and their insurance companies are knowledgeable and experienced and recognize the necessity for an immediate investigation.
  • If not counteracted by the injured worker or his attorney’s investigator, the injured worker could be prevented from successfully recovering damages from the legally responsible Third Party.

If you have been injured in a work-related accident and believe that some product or Third Party, other than your employer, caused your accident, please contact our office immediately, 800-437-2571 for a free, no obligation consultation with a Personal Injury attorney from our firm. Or use our convenient Do I have a case? submission form.