Normally, a personal injury claim arises between an injured party and the person who the victim blames for the accident. In many cases, however, a third party becomes involved in the claim, sometimes involuntarily. Below is a description of some of the most common roles for third parties in personal injury claims.
Third Parties in Workplace Accidents
A workplace injury typically invokes the workers’ compensation system. That is both good news and bad news. The good news is that you do not have to prove that your employer was negligent or otherwise at fault to win your claim. The bad news is that your compensation is limited to economic damages such as medical expenses and lost earnings. You cannot collect compensation for pain and suffering, for example.
This calculus changes, however, if the employee can find a third party (other than the employee and the employer) who was at fault for the accident that injured them. Suppose, for example, that a construction worker is injured on a job site. If their employer did not own the job site, and if the owner of the job site failed to ensure the safety of the job site, the construction worker might be able to sue the property owner.
The employee would have to prove fault to win. If they win, however, they can collect damages for pain and suffering as well as other forms of non-economic damages. Non-economic damages often amount to far more than economic damages.
Third-Party Insurance Claims
If you injure yourself under circumstances that do not lead to a conclusion that someone else was responsible, you could probably still recover compensation. You would simply need to make a claim against your insurance policy. You wouldn’t be qualified for non-economic damages, but at least you would receive compensation for your medical expenses.
However, the calculus changes when someone else was responsible for your injury. When this happens you need to check whether the party whose misconduct injured you carries liability insurance. Following are some examples:
- A careless driver causes a traffic accident that injures you. Does the driver carry automobile bodily injury liability insurance? Texas requires drivers to carry $30,000 per person and $60,000 per accident, but some ignore the law.
- Your neighbor’s dog bites you and sends you to the hospital. Does your neighbor have homeowners’ insurance? If they rent, do they have renters’ insurance? Both of these would include liability benefits that you might be able to rely on.
- A nightclub bouncer unjustly beats you, sending you to the hospital. Does the owner of the nightclub carry liability insurance that would pay you under the circumstances?
Under these circumstances, the third party is someone other than the insurance company and the person who purchased the policy.
For example, suppose a careless driver purchases an auto liability insurance policy. The driver is the first party, the insurance company is the second party, and if you suffer an injury due to the driver’s carelessness, you are the third party. Your claim against the driver’s insurance policy is a third-party claim. The insurance company is obligated to pay your claim because it promised the driver that it would pay anyone injured by the driver’s carelessness.
Vicarious Liability (Third-Party Liability)
The legal doctrine known as respondeat superior holds an employer liable for the consequences of their employee’s bad acts. This doctrine applies only if the act is committed within the scope of employment. Suppose, for example, you suffer an injury in an automobile accident that was caused by an on-duty employee who ran a red light.
As long as the employee acted within the scope of their employment (they were making a delivery for work, for example), you can sue the employer. That is very good news for you if the employee lacks the money to pay your claim, but the employer is a multi-million dollar company.
You need to be careful about one issue, however. Employers are liable for the misconduct of their employees, but they are generally not liable for the misconduct of independent contractors. For example, trucking companies are usually not responsible for the misconduct of the truckers they hire. Likewise, hospitals are generally not liable for the misconduct of the doctors who work there.
Nevertheless, employers are always responsible for their own negligence. A trucking company, for example, can bear liability for hiring a truck driver despite their bad driving record.
ADR (Third-Party Dispute Resolution)
ADR, or alternative dispute resolution, is an alternative to negotiation. In mediation, for example, a third-party mediator helps two parties reach a voluntary settlement of their dispute. An arbitrator, by contrast, is a third party who imposes a mandatory solution on two parties who have a dispute.
A Fort Worth Personal Injury Lawyer Can Act As Your Dedicated Advocate
Third-party issues in personal injury lawsuits often get complex. If you are in over your head, or if you fear that you might be, contact a Fort Worth personal injury lawyer for an initial case consultation. Since these consultations are almost always free, you have little to lose. Contact our Personal Injury lawyers at Anderson Injury Lawyers to schedule a free consultation at (817) 294-1900.