Indiana Work Injury and Third-Party Liability Claims

Indiana work injuries have been on the decline in recent decades, with roughly 60 percent fewer non-fatal occupational injuries and illnesses reported statewide since 1992. Still, a recent annual report by the Indiana Department of Labor reveals there were still 84,300 reported work injuries in Indiana, with nearly half requiring one or more days away from work or days with job transfer or restriction.

If you are an employee injured at work, your exclusive remedy against your employer is usually workers’ compensation, outlined in IC  22-3-2 through IC 22-2-6, which gives you just 30 days to submit notice to your employer and 2 years in which to formally file a claim for benefits. This assumes, of course, that you are actually an employee and not an independent contractor (a designation on which your employer doesn’t have the last say and which is often legally disputed). It also assumes your injury occurred in the course of and arose out of the scope of your employment. Workers’ compensation is meant to cover all related and reasonable medical expenses, a portion of lost wages, funeral expenses and other benefits, depending on the circumstances. However, securing full benefits to which you are entitled is often a challenge. In some cases, workers may have grounds to pursue a personal injury lawsuit for third-party liability if someone other than an employer or coworker was at-fault. An experienced work injury lawyer in Gary can best help protect your rights following a serious on-the-job injury.

The Indiana Department of Labor reports the most hazardous industries in the state for work injuries include agriculture and forestry, healthcare and social assistance, manufacturing, waste management, transportation and warehousing, arts/recreation/entertainment, accommodation and food service. 

Just recently in Elkhart, Indiana, a flash fire at an RV product manufacturing plant caused a worker to suffer serious burns while he was mixing chemicals. The incident was described by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration as a chemical fire.

A report published last fall by NWI.com revealed heavily industrialized workplaces in Indiana – including steel mills, factors and refineries – are getting safer. Historically, these were work sites where employees routinely were crushed, pinned, electrocuted, struck or suffered burns. Injuries sustained by workers in steelmaking, for instance, historically one of the most dangerous professions, fell from 1.81 per 1 million to 1.39 percent per 1 million. More than 10,000 workers are employed by steel mills in Northwest Indiana. Employers and workers say that years ago workplace safety was nothing more than a slogan. Now, it’s something practiced every day. Local labor unions credit new policies, such as allowing workers the right to refuse work they believe is too dangerous or have reason to believe will expose them to carcinogens. Federal law also now requires that companies tell workers what chemicals they’ll be exposed to on the job. Workers say one of the biggest causes is less fear that they’ll be retaliated against if they report unsafe conditions. Today, they say, a reported safety concern can result in operations being shut down entirely until it’s been established that it’s safe to proceed.

While all this may be good news, an injured employee will not have to prove negligence or fault to obtain workers’ compensation benefits, which are defined no-fault benefits under Indiana law. While fault or negligence may be an issue in a third-party liability claim, securing proper workers’ compensation benefits requires focus on quality of care, extent of injuries or disabilities, and long-term prospects in the workforce. The fact is, all workplaces have the potential to be dangerous.

Workplace falls remain a top cause of injury. Last year, NBC affiliate WTHR-13 reported a widow’s lament that she was unable to sue her husband’s employer after a fatal workplace fall from a ladder in an empty concrete pool inside a hotel in Marion. The employer was cited by OSHA for failure to maintain work conditions that were reasonably safe and free from recognized hazards that could seriously injure or kill. The fine of $4,800 was later negotiated down to $2,400, which many contend gives workplaces little incentive to improve employee safety. His widow said the employer should be made to pay for negligence resulting in the death of her husband of 18 years. But the workers’ compensation exclusive remedy provision prevented it. What she can do, as our Gary, Indiana injury attorneys can explain, is file for workers’ compensation death benefits, which will pay surviving spouses and/or dependents two-thirds the decedent’s salary for 10 years, plus burial costs and any medical expenses incurred because of the accident.

Personal injury lawyers know that because Indiana workers’ compensation does not cover all losses, it’s important to look at any potential third-party liability.

Indiana Injury Attorney Burton A. Padove handles personal injury claims throughout northern Indiana, including Highland, Gary and Hammond. Call Toll Free 877-446-5294.

Additional Resources:

2016 Indiana Non-Fatal Injuries and Illnesses, Indiana Department of Labor

More Blog Entries:

Indiana Work Injury Compensation for Under-the-Table Laborers, Sept. 4, 2018, Gary, Indiana Work Injury Attorney Blog