Interplay Between Workers’ Comp and Personal Injury
In North Carolina as well as most other states, workers' compensation is an insurance policy that protects employees who suffer on-the-job injuries regardless of fault and protects employers from personal injury lawsuits stemming from those injuries. As a result, many employees who are injured due to the negligence of their employers are surprised to learn that, under most circumstances, they cannot sue their employers directly. There may, however, be other options for receiving compensation beyond what is available from workers comp.
While the North Carolina workers' compensation system — administered by the North Carolina Industrial Commission — protects employers from direct suit for on-the-job injuries under most circumstances, but it does not apply to third parties, such as:
- Equipment manufactures
- Onsite contractors
- Construction companies
- Engineers, architects or other experts not directly employed by your company
- Non-employee drivers
And under most circumstances, these parties are liable for those injuries in the same manner as they would be for an injury that occurred outside of the workplace.
Of course, workers' compensation provides payment for medical expenses and a portion of lost wages regardless of fault. That is why it is important to pursue this type of compensation even if there is a possibility that a third party may be liable.
Should there be a case against a third party, that party may be liable for compensation above and beyond what workers' comp provides. When handling these types of lawsuits, however, it is important to consider that the employer or its workers comp insurance carrier has a right to recoup any benefits paid from the lawsuit proceeds should a third party be found liable for the injury.