When a worker is injured on-the-job in California, his rights are limited by the workers’ compensation laws. Workers’ compensation is a “no-fault” system. That means the employee is entitled to compensation from the employer’s insurance carrier without having to prove the employer was at fault. However, the workers compensation benefits are quite limited, and they seldom fully compensate an accident victim for his injuries.
In an appropriate case, an injured worker can seek compensation for his on-the-job injury from other sources. For example:
- If a co-worker causes the injury, the injured worker may be permitted to seek compensation from the co-worker, but only (1) when co-worker’s actions are malicious with an intent to cause injury or (2) when co-worker is intoxicated.
- If someone other than the employer or co-worker (also known as third party) causes the injury, the worker may seek compensation from the third party. The victim’s lawsuit against the third party can proceed at the same time as the workers’ compensation claim against the employer. In his third party lawsuit, the worker is not restricted to the limited benefits of worker’s comp. However, if the worker recovers against the third party, the employer is entitled to reimbursement for any benefits paid to the injured worker.
In some cases there may be multiple causes of a worker’s injury and he should proceed against his employer, a co-worker and a third party.