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Can a third party be sued for a work injury?

A Florida trash collector has sued a neighborhood association for creating a safety hazard that led to his foot injury on the job.

Many people think that you can’t sue for work injuries because of worker’s comp. It is true that you can’t sue your employer, but you can bring a lawsuit against third parties who are not associated with your employment.

Homeowners association sued for negligence

Scott Strickland was on the job, collecting trash, when he was seriously injured, according to his lawsuit filed in Orange County, Florida. He said he stepped in a hole that was obscured by grass, causing him to fall. He is suing the Southwood Property Owners Association Inc. for failure to maintain and inspect the grounds or to warn people of the danger.

His lawsuit seeks compensation for the lasting impact on his life, including hospital bills, ongoing medical treatment, physical pain, mental anguish and disability.  

You can’t sue your employer, but third parties are fair game

In Florida, as in New Jersey, workers’ compensation is the “exclusive remedy” if you are injured in the workplace or in a job-related capacity. However, that simply means the employer is immune to lawsuits in exchange for providing no-fault medical and wage benefits.

Nothing in the workers’ compensation law prevents you from suing a third party if they caused or contributed to your on-duty accident. You can’t sue anyone in your chain of employment, including your supervisor or co-workers. But you would be able to sue other parties such as:

  • A homeowner or business that created a dangerous property condition
  • A utility company that failed to turn off the power at a work site
  • A driver who crashed into your work vehicle
  • A subcontractor (different company) on the same work site who put you in danger
  • A manufacturer of defective work equipment

Do I have to choose one or the other?

No. You can collect workers’ compensation benefits through your employer while also pursuing a personal injury lawsuit for third party liability. However, you would not be able to “double dip” for damages such as lost wages.

One of the key benefits of a personal injury suit is that you can seek damages not covered by workers’ comp, such as pain and suffering or loss of enjoyment of life.

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