An Orange County, California, worker injured on the job will usually be entitled to workers' compensation benefits because most employers in the state are required to provide it. Someone who is a work accident victim, or is the victim of an occupational disease, may file a claim for benefits to cover things such as lost wages, medical expenses and rehabilitation expenses. The family of a worker killed in a construction site accident or in some other workplace accident may also file a claim for benefits under workers' compensation.
Workplace accidents might be caused by the negligent conduct of a third party. For example, an employee hit by a truck in a construction site accident might have both a workers' compensation claim and a claim for damages against the negligent driver and the company that owned the truck.
Having the right to sue one or more third parties for damages normally does not affect a worker's rights under the state's compensation laws for workers. However, employers who pay workers' compensation claims are given the right to sue a third party whose negligence caused the accident and injury. The purpose of this is to allow the employer to recover some or all of the benefits it paid to the injured worker.
Even if the employer elects not to file its own lawsuit against the third party, it retains the right to recover what it paid from a judgment or settlement won by the worker against the third party. By giving the employer the right to reimbursement, the law attempts to prevent an injured worker from being paid twice for medical expenses and lost wages already paid through workers' compensation benefits.
The decision about how best to obtain compensation for a worker suffering on-the-job injuries is complicated by legal and factual issues related to each case; this post is offered as an overview of workers' compensation and third-party claims, but it is not legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. An injured worker should seek legal advice from a knowledgeable personal injury attorney.