When you are injured at work in South Carolina, your first order of business – aside from seeking medical treatment – should be to consult with a workers’ compensation lawyer. Preferably, you want someone who not only understands workers’ compensation law in your state but also handles personal injury litigation. The reason is because while workers’ compensation claims are often filed first, it’s important that the investigation considers any subsequent third-party lawsuit that could be filed.
Although injured workers can’t typically sue their employers if they’re collecting workers’ compensation, even if the employer was negligent, they may be able to pursue compensation from responsible third parties. On construction sites, these could potentially include general contractors, property owners, other subcontractors, product or machine manufacturers, and others. The reason this is an important consideration is because third-party lawsuits tend to result in higher damages awards. Workers’ compensation claims will cover medical bills and a portion of lost wages, but you won’t get compensated for pain and suffering, emotional distress, loss of consortium, or punitive damages. You can claim all of those damages in a third-party lawsuit.
In the recent case of Schaefer v. Universal Scaffolding, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit was asked whether the plaintiff could proceed with a case against a third party for spoliation of evidence. He’d tried to proceed with a negligence lawsuit against the product provider/manufacturer, but when the piece of scaffolding that struck him went missing, he added claims of spoliation of evidence against both his employer and the energy plant where he was working at the time.