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When can you sue for a work injury in New Jersey?

Third-party liability if you are hurt on duty

People who are injured at work typically turn to workers' compensation to get the benefits they need. Workers' comp covers medical expenses and lost income stemming from the injury.

But there are limits to workers' compensation and it is not necessarily the only remedy. You could also have a personal injury case against a third party, in addition to the medical and wage benefits through your employer.

Someone other than the employer must be at fault

By law, you cannot sue your employer, your supervisor or your co-worker even if they directly caused your on-duty injury. The trade-off is that your employer must provide workers' compensation benefits - even if you were partly at fault for your injuries.

In some situations, an injured worker may be able to file both a workers' comp claim AND a third-party liability lawsuit. This possibility can arise if - and only if -- a person or entity other than the employer bears the fault for the injury. Where workers' comp

Some examples of third-party liability scenarios

  • Third-party lawsuits tend to be more common in industries where a number of different contractors work on the same site, such as construction. The subcontractor must be outside your chain of employment.
  • If a company contracts with an outside vendor for cleaning or maintenance, and that crew's negligence leads to a slip-and-fall or other injury, you might have a personal injury claim.
  • A worker may, as part of their duties, travel outside the workplace and get into a car accident. You would be able to sue the other driver even though you were on duty and covered by workers' comp.
  • Some workers' jobs consist of visiting other offices or private homes, such as an installer who gets bitten by a homeowner's dog.
  • Workers who get hurt by defective machinery or safety equipment might have a product liability case against the manufacturer.
  •  Proper owners and utility companies are potentially liable for creating unsafe property conditions that injure workers.

You do not have to choose between workers comp and a lawsuit

Even if you are considering filing a third-party lawsuit, you should generally also apply for workers' compensation. In a lawsuit, it can take a long time until you receive compensation, which is also not guaranteed. In the meantime, workers' comp benefits can tide you over. In the event you do end up prevailing in your lawsuit, you may receive the award after the subtraction of the workers' comp benefits you have already received.

A personal injury lawsuit enables you to collect damages - such as pain and suffering - which are not provided under workers' comp.

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