Work injuries in Indiana occur at a rate of 3.5 per 100 full-time workers. The good news is that’s the lowest it’s been in decades, and a decrease of nearly 70 percent since 1992. The bad news is that still amounts to more than 84,000 Hoosier workers suffering an OSHA-recordable injury or illness each year, according to the Indiana Department of Labor.
These injuries are often serious, with nearly half resulting in one or more days away from work or requiring a job transfer or restriction. The most dangerous jobs in Indiana, according to these numbers, are in the sectors of:
- Transportation and warehousing
- Health care and social assistance
- Agriculture and forestry
- Retail trades
A work-related injury may result in hospitalization, days away from work, a job transfer, a total or permanent disability, or even death. That translates to real costs for workers and their families. Injury attorneys in Highland recognize Indiana workers’ compensation benefits will cover some of these costs (medical expenses and a portion of lost wages), assuming you can successfully claim them. However, the trade-off is you can’t sue your employer for other losses. Health insurance doesn’t always cover every expense. That’s why in many cases, third-party litigation is a legal option that must be explored.
What is Third-Party Litigation?
Indiana workers’ compensation laws, codified in IC-22-3-2 and explained by the Workers’ Compensation Board of Indiana, are payable when workers suffer an on-the-job or job-related injury or illness that renders them unable to work for seven days or more. Those unable to work (temporarily totally disabled) are entitled to receive two-thirds of their average weekly wage for the past year, although not more than $600 weekly for injuries that occurred after July 2006.
The nice thing about workers’ compensation is it is a no-fault system, meaning you don’t have to prove your employer was negligent in causing the illness or injury. However, it also means you are only entitled to the benefits allowable under workers’ compensation law – even if the employer was at-fault and violated critical health and safety laws, resulting in your injury. These benefits are often inadequate to cover your total losses.
Third-party liability claims for work-related injuries or illnesses are claims or lawsuits filed against third parties who were negligent in causing or contributing to your condition.
For example, if you work in manufacturing and are injured by a malfunctioning table saw, you can explore whether the table saw was defectively designed or manufactured, resulting in the incident that caused your injuries. If so, you may have grounds to file a product liability lawsuit against the manufacturer. Similarly, if you are running an errand for your employer and are struck by a red-light runner, you can file a third-party lawsuit against that negligent driver.
How Does Third-Party Litigation Affect My Indiana Workers’ Compensation Claim?
Indiana law does not permit injured workers to make a double recovery. What that means is if your workers’ compensation insurer has already covered your medical costs, and you successfully sue a third party and collect damages for those medical bills, your workers’ compensation insurer has the right to impose a lien to recover the expenses it already paid.
It’s still generally worth it to pursue third-party litigation following a work accident, though, since you stand to gain additional compensation over and above what you collected for workers’ compensation.
If you have suffered a work-related injury in northern Indiana, it’s important to carefully examine all of your legal options to ensure your financial security.
Indiana Injury Attorney Burton A. Padove handles personal injury claims throughout northern Indiana, including Highland, Gary and Hammond. Call Toll Free 877-446-5294.
2016 Indiana Nonfatal Injuries & Illnesses, Indiana Department of Labor
More Blog Entries:
What to Do Immediately After an Indiana Car Accident, Feb. 2, 2018, Highland Work Injury Attorney Blog