Beware of Your Rights in The Workplace

by: Jay A Kaplan
One of the most important rights that is often overlooked by the typical worker in the industrial or construction fields is what is called a “third party case.” Under California law, employers are responsible for employees’ injuries that occur on the job without regard to the employees’ own fault or carelessness. California law further provides that if an employee receives Worker’s Compensation benefits, generally speaking, the employee may not sue the employer for personal injuries in any legal action unless the employer intentionally injured the employee or has violated certain parts of the Labor Code.

Although an injured employee is not allowed under the law to sue his or her employer, the employee still may be entitled to recover significant damages from “third parties” who are legally responsible, either totally or partially, for the employee’s injuries.  This is a more common experience than you might think since according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics there were almost 3.03 million non-fatal injuries at the workplace and 4,551 workplace fatalities in 2009.  A typical third party case arises in a situation where the injury is caused by someone not in the employ of your employer, for instance, such as by another contractor or on negligently maintained premises owned or controlled by someone other than your employer.

Unlike a Worker’s Compensation claim where an employee is entitled to recover only a portion of their losses, a third party claim allows the injured worker to recover damages for pain and suffering, disfigurement, loss of enjoyment of life as well as emotional distress.

Unfortunately, the majority of employers do not inform their employees about potential third party claims and all of the important rules, regulations and laws concerning them such as the fact that these claims must be filed within certain time limits (called statutes of limitations).  A failure to file a timely lawsuit may result in the claim being barred forever.  The typical amount of time to file a lawsuit for a third party injury in California is two years from the date the person was injured.  However, when governmental entities are involved such as the City or County of Los Angeles or the Department of Water And Power, a claim must be filed within 180 days of the accident date notifying the entity or the opportunity to sue will be forever barred. 

At Kaplan Law Corporation, we encourage you to call us on our toll free line 1-800-5 KAPLAN (1-800-552-7526) to ask us any questions that you may have with absolutely no obligation so that you are able to determine for yourself what your potential rights are as a worker who has been injured on the job.

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