You may have heard something about Worker’s Compensation being your “exclusive remedy” if you are injured on the job – but what does this mean for you?
In general, it means that with a few extremely limited exceptions, you will not be able to sue your employer or a fellow employee for negligence relating to the circumstances leading to your injury. Your employer has immunity from lawsuits for work-related injuries, and you will be limited to the recovery and benefits allowable under North Carolina’s Workers’ Compensation Act.
The reason for this immunity goes back to the earliest days of the creation of worker’s comp laws across the country approximately a century ago. Before these provisions, employees had the burden of proving that they were injured due to the actions or inactions of their employers. This led to some very harsh results for most employees suffering accidents on the job, who were left without any recovery when they were injured performing work for someone else. These results led to the creation of special workers’ compensation laws to provide those employees with some benefits without regard to who – if anyone – was at fault in an accident. However, as part of the creation of these laws, employers wanted provisions that they could not be sued as part of these claims. These immunity provisions were granted, and as a general rule, you will not be able to sue your employer or a fellow employee for a work-related injury unless they intentionally injured you or were extremely and recklessly negligent.
But what if there is a potential third party – meaning someone who is not your employer or a fellow employee – at fault in your injury? A common example of this is a work-related motor vehicle accident in which the other driver is at fault in the accident. In this case, you can have a worker’s compensation claim with your employer and their insurance carrier, and can also have a third party claim based on liability against the at-fault driver. There are other scenarios as well in which liability may exist on the part of a third party that causes or contributes to a person’s injuries.
These are separate claims and involve different parties, different insurance, and different legal provisions. However, they can interact with each other due to the fact that the workers’ compensation insurance carrier legally holds a lien on your proceeds from the third party. The lien will need to be addressed in some way before you can recover those proceeds.
When you are represented by Kellum Law Firm’s workers’ compensation lawyers to handle your work injury claim, we will help you determine the potential for any third-party liability in your claim as well as assist with liens held by workers’ compensation carriers if there is a third-party liability. Contact us today to schedule your free case review.