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Workers' comp and personal injury: when are lawsuits allowed?

The workers' compensation system involves several tradeoffs.

Injured employees are not required to show negligence on the part of their employer in order to be eligible for workers' compensation. But the work comp system also places restrictions on an injured employee's ability to sue the employer or another employee of that employer in a personal injury lawsuit.

There is, however, an important exception to these restrictions on lawsuits. This exception is referred to as third-party liability. In this post, we will discuss that concept and how it can apply in workers' comp cases.

As we noted in our article on third-party liability and work injuries, the restrictions on negligence lawsuits imposed by the work comp system do not apply to third parties.

This means that if you were injured at work by the negligence of someone who does not work for your employer, you may be able to pursue a personal injury lawsuit against that party. A common example of this is an injury that occurs on a construction site where there were numerous contractors and subcontractors involved.

Another example is an injury caused by a product defect. If you were injured at work by a defective product, you are not necessarily limited to workers' compensation for your recovery. You may be able to bring a third-party suit based on products liability.

In serious personal injury cases, the amount of money at stake in such a lawsuit can be substantial.

But personal injury lawsuits are not only important for injured employees who seek to recover compensation that goes beyond the amounts allowed by workers' compensation. They are also important for workers who were contractors and were not eligible for workers' compensation in the first place.

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