Unfortunately car wrecks can happen while you are on the clock. In those instances you have a workers’ compensation case and a liability claim against the at fault driver. The liability claim is often called a “third party claim”. If you find yourself in this situation, it is best to have a lawyer that is experienced in both workers’ compensation and personal injury litigation. If you have two different lawyers or firms handling your two claims, you could experience communication issues between the lawyers and firms. At Haug & Farrar one attorney will handle both the workers’ compensation claim and the third party liability claim. We have extensive experience in both workers’ compensation and personal injury litigation and thus know how to competently handle these complex claims.
Probably the most important aspect of these third party/comp claims is the subrogation claim the workers’ compensation insurance carrier has against your third party claim. Mississippi Code Ann. 71-3-71 allows the workers’ compensation insurance carrier to subrogate or recoup from the third party claim the money they spent on your medical treatment and indemnity benefits. Therefore, it’s very likely that the more you get from the workers’ compensation claim, the less you’ll inevitably receive from the third party case.
One exception to this general subrogation rule involves uninsured motorist claims. If you are injured while on the job by an uninsured motorist, your workers’ compensation insurance company can not subrogate their expenses from your uninsured motorist claim. Nationwide Mut. Ins. Co. v. Garriga, 636 So. 2d 658 (Miss. 1994.
If your workers’ compensation carrier cuts off your benefits it might still be best for you to get as much out of your workers’ compensation claim as possible. It could be months or years before the workers’ compensation or third party claim is resolved. However, it is important for your lawyer to evaluate the ultimate value of both claims. It is possible for the third party claim to become basically worthless due to the amount of the workers’ compensation lien. Therefore, there are certain instances where filing a third party claim might not be adviseable.
Finally, your lawyer should fight to get the workers’ compensation carrier to waive or limit their subrogation lien. There are various reasons why the carrier might do so. For one, you could refuse to close the workers’ compensation case until they agree to do so. The workers’ comepnsation insurance carrier will incur increased expenses on legal fees the longer it takes to close the claim. If the workers’ compensation carrier refuses to reduce their claim then you may never be able to effectively settle your third party case. This could force you into a situation where you have to take the case to trial. The outcome of a jury trial is never gauranteed. Therefore, the workers’ compensation carrier stands to lose their entire subrogation claim if the third party case is tried to a jury which returns a defense verdict and $0.
Haug & Farrar has experience handling workers’ compensation claims involving third party liability claims. You can trust that we will evaluate both claims and make sure that a sound comprehensive strategy is developed to maximize your recovery and limit the amount the workers’ compensation carrier takes back from your pocket. Call us today for a free consultation to discuss your claim.