If you are injured while
working on a construction site, in a factory or while
operating a vehicle, you could be entitled to the all
the benefits provided by the Illinois Workers' Compensation
Act. In addition, you could be entitled to recover substantial
damages in a Third Party lawsuit, from a person or company,
other than your employer (or one of their employees)
who caused, in whole or in part, your accident.
complex nature of Third Party cases and the need for
timely actions, it is critical that you contact a qualified
attorney as soon as possible after an accident.
The following is
intended to provide basic legal and practical information
regarding Third Party lawsuits.
ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT THIRD PARTY LAWSUITS
1. What is
a "Third Party" case?
2. Who are frequent "third parties?"
3. Are there greater monetary recoveries
under a Third Party case compared to a Workers' Compensation
4. Is there a Statute of Limitations in
Third Party cases?
5. What actions can a worker take to protect
and preserve his potential Third Party case?
6. Is it necessary for an injured worker
to retain an attorney to pursue a Third Party case?
What is a "Third Party"
A. The Illinois
Workers' Compensation Act provides that a worker who
sustains an on-the-job injury, cannot file a lawsuit
against his employer, regardless of whether
some action or negligent conduct of his employer clearly
caused or contributed to the worker's accident. Therefore,
the sole remedy the worker has relative to his employer,
are his benefits provided by the Illinois Workers' Compensation
However, the injured worker
could have the right to receive substantial additional
monetary damages in the form of a "Third
Party" lawsuit if the facts of the accident
establish that a third party, other than his employer
or a co-worker, was in whole or in part, legally responsible
for the accident. If these circumstances exist, the
injured worker could file a lawsuit against the legally
responsible "third party or parties."
Who are frequent "third parties."
A. Whether a third party
can be held legally responsible for the worker's injuries
depends on the facts and circumstances surrounding the
worker's job-related accident.
The best way to illustrate
possible Third Party situations follows:
(a) The most frequent on-the-job
accidents involving third parties occur on construction
sites. At a construction site, there are workers representing
building trades (carpenters, electricians, ironworkers,
plumbers, pipefitters, sheet metal workers, laborers,
etc.) performing their duties. These workers are frequently
employed by subcontractors who, in turn, are hired by
a General Contractor. If a workers is injured as a result
of negligent conduct by an employee of another subcontractor,
the injured worker could have a potential Third Party
case against the subcontractor, general contractor or
possibly, the owner of the property where the accident
(b) A Third Party case
may result if a worker is injured as a result of defective
equipment or tools (ladders, power drills, power saws,
etc.) This type of case is referred to as a "Products
Liability" lawsuit which could be filed
against the manufacturer of the defective piece of equipment
(c)Another typical example
of a Third Party case would be a truck driver injured
(while working) in an automobile accident caused as
a result of a negligent driver. In this case, the truck
driver would have a Third Party case against the negligent
driver of the other vehicle involved in the accident.
Are there greater monetary recoveries
under a Third Party case compared to a Workers' Compensation
A. Yes, the monetary recovery
(damages) to any injured worker in a Third Party case
is usually considerably greater than a Workers' Compensation
settlement or award of the Illinois Industrial Commission.
Unlike a Workers' Compensation
claim which is a claim filed with the Illinois Industrial
Commission, a Third Party case is a lawsuit filed in
the Circuit or Federal courts. As opposed to a Workers'
Compensation claim, a Third Party case generally has
no limitations on the amount of recovery an injured
person can receive. A judge or jury in determining damages
in a Third Party case, may consider the worker's pain
and suffering, future loss of earnings, inability to
perform non-work activities and the amount of medical
expenses. Lastly, Third Party cases frequently involve
multiple defendants which increases the potential for
considerably higher recoveries of damages.
Is there a Statute of Limitations
in Third Party cases?
A. Yes, an injured worker
must file a civil complaint against responsible third
parties in the Circuit or Federal courts generally within
two (2) years from the date of the worker's accident.
Failure to file a lawsuit within two (2) years from
the date of the accident may result in forfeiture of
any claims or rights the worker may have had against
the third party.
What actions can a worker take
to protect and preserve his potential Third Party case?
A. In order to receive
monetary damages, an injured worker must prove that
a Third Party was negligent or otherwise legally responsible
for the accident. Therefore, a worker should take the
following actions to preserve his rights and maximize
his recovery in the event an experienced and knowledgeable
Third Party attorney determines that the worker has
a viable Third Party case:
(a) An injured worker should
not give any statements, recorded or transcribed
to anyone other than his attorney or an investigator
from his attorney's office.
(b) As soon as possible
after the accident, the worker (or a friend or co-worker)
should take pictures of the accident
scene, the mechanical device or scaffold or possible
hazardous conditions surrounding the job-site.
(c) If possible, the worker
should try to secure potential evidence
such as ladders, portable equipment, etc.
(d) The worker should try
to obtain the names and addresses of any potential
witnesses or legally responsible third parties.
Is it necessary for an injured
worker to retain an attorney to pursue a Third Party
You should contact a qualified Personal Injury attorney
as soon as practical after sustaining a work-related
injury. Consider the following reasons why:
- Due to the complex nature
of Third Party cases, it is imperative that a worker
retain an attorney who is experienced in the handling
of Third Party matters.
- Only an experienced
attorney can determine the potential existence of
a Third Party claim, identify the legally responsible
parties, and take proper action to recover damages
on the injured worker's behalf.
- Contacting an attorney
immediately following an accident involving a third
party is necessary to protect the injured worker's
Third Party case. By contacting an attorney in a timely
manner, he can arrange for an investigator to be at
the scene of the accident within hours, to take pictures
of the accident site or take statements from witnesses
who could be pertinent to a subsequent Third Party
- As in serious Workers'
Compensation accidents, employers and their insurance
companies are knowledgeable and experienced and recognize
the necessity for an immediate investigation.
- If not counteracted
by the injured worker or his attorney's investigator,
the injured worker could be prevented from successfully
recovering damages from the legally responsible Third
If you have been injured
in a work-related accident and believe that some product
or Third Party, other than your employer, caused your
accident, please contact our office immediately, (847) 244-0690
for a free, no obligation consultation.