The basic premise of South Carolina’s workers’ compensation statute is this: an injured worker is entitled to compensation for workplace injuries and illnesses he or she suffers, regardless of whether the worker’s or the worker’s employer’s negligence is the primary cause. In return for the guarantee of compensation for medical expenses and a portion of the injured or ill worker’s lost wages (amongst other available compensation), the worker is prohibited from filing a lawsuit seeking additional compensation from his or her employer except in certain limited circumstances.
Your Carelessness in a Third-Party Workplace Lawsuit
Workers’ compensation statutes do not prohibit an injured or ill worker from filing a lawsuit against someone other than the worker’s employer if such person or entity acted carelessly and thus contributed to the worker’s injury or illness. Unlike in a workers’ compensation claim, however, the worker’s own negligence in a third-party workplace lawsuit does play a role:
- If the worker him or herself was less than 50 percent responsible for the workplace incident, then the damages recoverable by the worker through the third-party lawsuit will be correspondingly reduced. For example, a worker who may have been entitled to $50,000 in damages through a third-party lawsuit but who is found to be 40 percent responsible for the workplace accident would only be able to recover $30,000.
- If the worker was more than 50 percent responsible for the accident, then the worker will not be able to recover any amount of compensation from the third-party.
Just as you would be responsible for proving the third party’s negligence, the third party would be responsible for proving the extent of your own negligence. Aside from the third party’s own testimony and your testimony at trial, your negligence can be shown by:
- Photographs, videos, or the statements of other witnesses who observed the accident occur;
- Any inculpatory statements you made near the time of the accident;
- Conclusions or findings made by workplace investigators who examined the accident after it occurred;
- The expert testimony of engineers who, using the available data, reconstruct the likely cause or causes of the accident; and
- The results of any blood or urine tests conducted on you by doctors or hospitals immediately after the accident that show the presence of alcohol and/or drugs in your system.
What a Workplace Injury Attorney Can Do to Help
In a third-party workplace accident, your attorney’s task is to use the available evidence to prove the other party’s negligence while minimizing the effect of any evidence that suggests your own negligence may have played a role in your accident. That is why you want legal counsel with experience investigating workplace accidents. Greenville, South Carolina workplace accident lawyer David R. Price, Jr. has been assisting injured workers obtain full and fair compensation after being injured or becoming ill at work for years. Contact his office immediately after a workplace injury or illness to determine whether you may seek compensation through a third-party claim. Call David R. Price, Jr., P.A. by phone, or contact his office online.