What happens if you are involved in a car accident on the job that was caused by someone else’s negligence?
In most cases, you cannot sue your employer when you are injured on the job. Your compensation is limited to workers’ compensation benefits – a trade-off because you are not required to prove liability after an on-the-job accident.
But what if someone other than your employer caused the accident? Do you file a workers’ comp claim? A lawsuit against the other driver? Both?
In this article, we will discuss this common situation, including:
- When you can file a workers’ compensation claim for an auto accident,
- When you can sue a third party for an accident that happened while on the clock, and
- The rules for filing both a workers’ compensation claim and a civil lawsuit for damages.
Your auto accident attorney on the Axelrod team can guide you through this process and help you to decide whether you should file one or both claims.
Workers’ Compensation Claims for Car Accidents
Most people think of personal injury claims and lawsuits when they hear “auto accident.”
Although worker’s comp and auto accident claims are two very different areas of law with different issues that must be proven and different types of damages that may be recovered, you may be able to file both types of claims if your auto accident happened while you were on the job.
Worker’s compensation covers most on-the-job injuries if the employee was acting in the “course and scope” of their employment at the time that the injury was sustained.
This applies to car wrecks when the accident occurs while the employee is driving the vehicle for a work-related purpose, such as:
- Driving a company vehicle,
- Running errands for the employer,
- Transporting other employees, or
- Driving jobs such as a delivery driver.
Workers ordinarily are not covered by worker’s comp when they are driving to and from work, but there are many exceptions to this rule, such as when the employee is driving a company car, when the route to and from work is inherently dangerous, or when the wreck occurs near the workplace.
Worker’s comp benefits are limited by South Carolina law and do not provide the same type of recovery that is available in a civil suit against the at-fault driver, but they do provide compensation for:
- Necessary medical expenses,
- A percentage of lost wages, and
- Long-term disability benefits.
Third-Party Claims for Car Accidents on the Job
When you are injured in a car accident caused by someone else while you are on the clock, you are not limited to a workers’ compensation claim.
You are entitled to recover damages from any individual or company, apart from your employer, who negligently caused your car accident. And your damages in the third-party civil claim are not limited like workers’ comp benefits – you may recover financial compensation for all categories of damages like:
- Current, past, and future medical expenses,
- Surgeries, doctors’ bills, ER bills, ambulance bills, and long-term care,
- Scarring and disfigurement,
- Lost wages and loss of future income,
- Pain and suffering,
- Wrongful death damages,
- Punitive damages, and
- Any other category of damages that is available under SC law.
Third-Party Claims for Other On-the-Job Injuries
This isn’t limited to car accidents – if you are injured in an accident on the job, you can file a civil lawsuit for damages against any person or company other than your employer that caused the accident.
- Another company working on the same job site that caused the hazardous condition that led to the accident,
- Manufacturers, distributors, or sellers of a defective product that caused your injuries, or
- Any third party other than your employer whose negligence proximately caused the accident and your injuries.
You Can File Both Claims, But…
In many cases, your Myrtle Beach workers’ compensation attorney will advise you to file both a workers’ comp claim and a third-party lawsuit.
Worker’s compensation claims are limited in the potential recovery. For example, worker’s comp will not cover property damage to your vehicle. It will not compensate you for pain and suffering or other types of non-economic damages.
On the other hand, a civil claim against the at-fault driver may allow you to recover full compensation for lost wages and pain and suffering, and, in some cases, the at-fault driver may also be subject to punitive damages.
If you file both claims and you are not successful in your civil claim, you have not lost completely. Worker’s compensation covers on-the-job injuries regardless of fault which means you do not have to prove negligence or causation. The comparative negligence rule, which could reduce or bar your recovery in a civil suit, does not apply to worker’s compensation claims.
Workers’ Compensation Liens
If you file both claims and you are successful in your civil claim, however, some very specific rules must be followed, or you may lose your workers’ compensation benefits. Remember, both claims are being paid by an insurance company that will do everything possible to get out of paying or to pay the least amount possible…
If you don’t provide the required notices to parties in the workers’ compensation case, you could lose your workers’ comp benefits. If you settle your car accident claim before settling your workers’ comp claim, you could lose your workers’ comp benefits.
In any event, there will be a “workers’ compensation lien” on the proceeds of your car accident settlement – you must pay the workers’ compensation insurance company back from the proceeds of your auto accident settlement.
This lien can be negotiated by your attorney, however, to maximize the portion of your recovery in the auto accident case that you keep, and the final amount of the lien must be approved by the Workers’ Compensation Commission.
If you or someone you know has been injured in an auto accident while on the job, call now and schedule a free consultation with a Myrtle Beach workers’ compensation lawyer on the Axelrod team.