A worker injured while on the job may assume that they only have a workers’ compensation claim. That may not be their only option, depending on who caused the injury. A worker can be injured on the job in several ways, including these:

1)     It might truly be an “accident,” where no one did anything wrong*, but an injury occurred.

2)     The worker himself did something wrong, and caused his own injury.

3)     A co-worker did something wrong, and caused the worker’s injury.

4)     The “business” itself (management decisions, workplace environment, etc.) did something wrong, and caused the worker’s injury.

5)     Someone outside the company did something wrong, causing the worker’s injury.

The first four scenarios involve either no fault, the fault of someone in the company, or fault of the company itself. In these cases, the workers’ compensation system generally has exclusive control over the claim, if the company has workers’ compensation insurance. The fifth scenario, where someone outside the company caused the injury, is different. In that case, both workers’ compensation AND a traditional injury claim may both take place. This distinction can make a significant financial difference for the injured worker.

Under a workers’ compensation claim, the good news is that the worker can get medical expenses and lost income related to the injury paid without having to prove that someone did something wrong. In fact, even if it is perfectly clear that the worker himself was at fault for his own injury, he can still get the medical bills and lost income paid. The bad news is that, in exchange for that privilege, he CANNOT sue his employer or co-workers for negligence, and collect for pain and suffering, or other human losses, even if the injury was caused by the wrongdoing of another employee or the business.

However, if someone outside the same business caused the injury, the injured worker can use the workers’ compensation insurance for the benefits it provides, AND still make a claim against the person whose wrongful action caused the injury. The following example will make this more clear.

Let’s say a construction worker is on the clock, and driving from one work site to another. While driving, he is hit by a driver who runs a red light, and the construction worker is seriously injured. Because he is on the job, the construction worker can get his medical bills and lost income covered through the workers’ compensation plan of his employer. IN ADDITION, he can make a claim against the insurance company of the person who caused the accident. This does not result in “double dipping” for the injured worker, because the workers’ compensation insurance can get their money back from the injured worker’s recovery against the other insurance. But it does make it possible for the construction worker to collect for pain and suffering, not just out-of-pocket losses. Anyone who has been injured knows that the losses that don’t have a price tag attached are usually worse than the out-of-pocket, so this is a big difference.

The main point to remember is that, even if the injury happened at work, if someone not with the same company caused the accident, there is likely a separate claim that can be pursued.

Of course, I am writing about Arizona law, this general information may not be right for your specific claim, and is not legal advice. I’d be happy to talk to you, so give me a call at Davis Miles McGuire Gardner, 480-733-6800, or reach me at kfine@davismiles.com. You can also get my book, Arizona Auto Injury Claims, at www.autoinjurybook.com.

*Throughout this article, I use “wrong” or “wrongdoing” to mean “negligent,” as different from intentional wrongdoing, which is treated differently.