Can Your Employer Actually Make You Waive a Third Party Claim?
Injured during the course of your employment? In the case of most workplace accidents, you can expect to receive workers’ compensation benefits. However, there are times that you might also be entitled to file a third-party claim. Not sure what that means? Read on.
For illustration purposes only, let’s say you are a delivery truck driver. It could be that you have an established route for UPS or Federal Express. Moreover, you have an excellent record behind the wheel. Notwithstanding, accidents happen. One day, you learn that firsthand.
Seemingly out of nowhere, a pickup truck crosses the line and strikes your vehicle. You have little recollection of what happens next, as you lose consciousness. After a couple of weeks in the hospital, you learn that the other driver was busy texting and driving. Your life has been changed.
You are relieved to learn that the workers’ compensation insurance company will take care of your medical bills in full. Additionally, you are further reassured to learn that your employer has arranged for your temporary disability benefits. There is also the chance you might also be entitled to more money in the form of permanent disability benefits. In fact, you are encouraged to meet with an attorney to learn more.
All things considered, you start to wonder about making a claim against the distracted driver who caused the accident. Truth be told, you need to consult with an experienced personal injury attorney. The motor vehicle operator who caused the accident should be held responsible. In fact, your lawyer will most likely file what is known as a third party lawsuit. This claim is submitted in addition to the workers’ compensation action.
Third Party Claim Waiver
To get a clearer understanding of third-party lawsuits, you should check out this article. In short, if someone other than your employer or a co-worker caused the accident, you may be able to sue them. The workers’ compensation carrier is entitled to some remuneration for the money they put out on your behalf.
In some cases, your employer may ask you to save a waiver with regards to making a third party claim. For example, a temporary agency sends you to various work assignments. As a selling point to their clients, they agree to maintain workers’ compensation coverage when they place workers. Meanwhile, there is the chance that you could be injured on the job through the fault of someone who is not a co-employee from the same temp agency.
Case in point. You are assigned to unpack boxes in a warehouse. One of the regular employees inadvertently runs into you with a forklift. Of course, the act was not intentional. You may have a negligence claim against the company for the actions of their employee.
Meanwhile, there’s a chance that the temporary agency had you sign a third party claim waiver. More than likely, this was done to ensure the warehouse owner that they don’t have to worry about a claim against them. But, are third party claim waivers legal?
Supreme Court Considers Third Party Waiver Claims
In Vitale v. Schering-Plough Corp., the New Jersey Supreme Court considered the legality of third-party waiver claims. According to the history presented, Philip Vitale was a security guard employed by Allied Barton Security Services, a company that provided security services to Schering-Plough.
As a condition of his employment, Vitale signed a disclaimer with Allied Barton. Vitale agreed that if he were injured while working for an Allied Barton customer, he would not pursue a claim against them. In essence, this amounted to a third party waiver.
Vitale was injured when he fell down stairs while working at a Schering-Plough facility. In addition to pursuing workers’ compensation benefits, Vitale’s attorney also filed a lawsuit against Schering-Plough. The suit was based on the premise that the latter “had negligently maintained its facility and failed to warn him of a dangerous condition.”
During the litigation process, Schering-Plough filed a motion for summary judgment. They produced the disclaimer and submitted that Vitale had waived his rights to make a claim against them.
In the end, the Supreme Court ruled that the third party waiver was contrary to public policy. Under New Jersey workers’ compensation law, injured employees are entitled to pursue third-party actions. Therefore, the disclaimer was marked void. The court remanded the case to the lower court to review whether Schering-Plough was liable for the fall. Additionally, the issue of damages was also sent back for consideration at the trial level.
If you were injured at work, the Law Offices of Anthony Carbone is available to provide you with experienced legal advice. There is no cost to meet with us and fees are court-ordered at the end of the case. Contact us to set up an appointment!