The biggest sum for an individual would come from what is called a third-party personal injury claim. An injured worker cannot sue his employer. He can only file a workers’ compensation claim against his employer. However, there may be a “3rd” person who was negligent, causing your injury. Here are some examples: A medical malpractice claim against the treating physician, a personal injury claim against a non coworker for an auto accident, equipment maintenance, delivery of materials, or premise liability. Another type is products liability, which would be a claim against a manufacturer for defective equipment. If you believe there may be a possibility that the equipment that you were using (such as a forklift or a table saw) was defective, it is important to preserve that evidence by taking pictures or, ideally, keeping the equipment so it cannot be destroyed and an expert can look at it. The reason these types of cases are “better” than a workers’ compensation case is because you can get money for pain and suffering. As you recall, you can only get a portion of lost wages up to 9 ½ years and medical benefits under workers’ compensation. This is not enough if you have a significant life-changing injury where you may never be able to go back to your career. You may have permanent disabilities and, physically, cannot do various daily living activities that you used to do. These are not compensated under workers’ compensation; however, in the other types of third party claims, you can get what is called pain and suffering and you would be able to be compensated for those types of losses.
Workers’ compensation has a lien on any personal injury claim that you pursue. Also, your employer can pursue these claims as well. Again, as I’ve been saying, the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Commission has to approve everything, including approval of third party settlements. Usually, what needs to occur is that the workers’ compensation carrier waive or reduce their lien and many times it’s conditioned upon the employee settling the workers’ comp claim as well. If the employee settles a third party personal injury claim without the knowledge and consent of the employer or workers’ compensation insurance carrier, he forfeits his right to further workers’ compensation benefits.