If you are injured at work, typically a workers’ compensation claim is your only recourse to obtain reimbursement of your medical expenses and lost wages. In other words, you cannot sue your employer to recover monetary damages above and beyond the benefits provided by Iowa’s workers compensation.
Iowa Workers’ Compensation Versus Personal Injury Claims – Third Party Negligence
There are some situations, however, when a personal injury claim might be appropriate when an employee is injured while working. Commonly referred to as a third party claim, when someone other than you employer or coworkers are involved in your injury accident, you may be able to sue that third party in court for damages.
For example, if get into a car or truck accident during the workday, you may have a claim against the at-fault driver. Or, if you are hurt while working at the premises of a third party as part of your work duties, you may be able to sue the third party. This might include slips and falls due to hazardous conditions at a construction site or other dangerous conditions that resulted in your injury.
The advantages of a third party claim is that you can recover damages to the full extent of your injuries. Unlike workers compensation, personal injury claims allow you to recover damages in addition to medical expenses and lost wages such as pain and suffering, mental anguish and emotional distress, and sometimes punitive damages if the case is particularly egregious.
Do I Have to Pay Back Workers’ Compensation if I Win My Personal Injury Suit?
Of course, if you are successful in your third party claim, any payments that were made by workers’ compensation insurance for medical expenses and the like will have to be reimbursed. The concept of subrogation is that your insurance company has a right to be indemnified, or “paid back” for the bills they have paid on your behalf.
What the workers’ compensation insurer will be reimbursed can be complicated. In some states, if the employer is even partially at fault, the judge assigns a percentage to that which will then be deducted from the lien. A judge may also take into account attorney’s fees and other expenses related to the case, requiring the workers’ compensation carrier to pay toward those costs too.
In a personal injury lawsuit, common damages include medical expenses, lost wages and pain and suffering. Workers’ comp insurers cannot take damages from an unrelated category to pay for its lien for reimbursement of another category. For example, if you are awarded pain and suffering damages or even punitive damages in your personal injury case, the workers’ comp insurer cannot take those to pay for the reimbursement of medical expenses or lost wages. It boils down to ‘staying in their lane’.
Contact an Experienced Iowa Personal Injury | Workers’ Compensation Lawyer for Help
If you or a family member is injured at work, it is important to discuss your options with an experienced Iowa workers’ compensation, personal injury attorney. When a loved one is hurt, medical expenses can add up quickly, especially if someone is unable to work. It is crucial to get all of the workers’ compensation and disability benefits you are entitled to, which sometimes requires some legal teeth. If you are hurt due to the negligence of a third party, you may be able to pursue damages to the full extent of your injuries, reducing the financial impact of a work injury. Contact the Des Moines Iowa workers’ compensation, personal injury law offices of John T. Hemminger for a free consultation to determine the best strategy for your unique circumstances at 515-283-2116.
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