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Suing a Third Party for a Workplace Injury

Posted on in Workers' Compensation

Suing a Third Party for a Workplace InjuryThe Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act was created in part so that injured workers would not need to file personal injury lawsuits against their employers. As long as the employer has workers’ compensation insurance, the employer can cover the worker’s medical expenses without a direct cost to itself. By collecting the workers’ compensation benefits, the worker is not allowed to sue the employer for additional damages. However, an injured worker can file a personal injury lawsuit against a third party who was responsible for the injury. The worker may seek the damages in addition to his or her workers’ compensation.

Benefits of Lawsuits

Workers’ compensation benefits are meant to pay for the medical expenses needed for a worker to reach maximum medical improvement. Workers may also be compensated for lost pay if they are disabled and unable to fully return to work. Workers can receive greater compensation with a personal injury lawsuit because they can also request money for:

  • Pain and suffering;
  • Continued treatments beyond maximum medical improvement; and
  • Loss of quality of life.

When an injured worker files a personal injury lawsuit in addition to receiving workers’ compensation, the award will compensate the employer for the medical expenses it paid. The worker keeps whatever money is left over after the employer has been indemnified. 

Third Party Liability

Injured workers are limited to workers’ compensation benefits when negligence by an employer or coworker caused the injury. Workers’ compensation insurance does not protect third parties, such as subcontractors or equipment manufacturers. A third party’s negligence can make it liable for a workplace injury, such as when:

  • A subcontractor creates unsafe conditions on the worksite;
  • A worker visiting a client is injured due to negligence by the property owner;
  • Equipment malfunctions due to a product flaw; or
  • A worker is injured in a vehicle accident while on the job, with a third party driver being at fault.


In most cases, there is a two-year statute of limitations for a plaintiff to file a personal injury lawsuit. An employer may sue the third party instead if it is three months before the deadline and the worker has yet to file. As with a lawsuit filed by a worker, the employer can only recover its workers’ compensation expenses. Any additional money awarded must go to the worker. However, the employer does not have an incentive to seek damages beyond its own compensation. Thus, workers are better off filing their own lawsuits.

Maximum Compensation 

A personal injury lawsuit is the only way to receive compensation for pain and suffering after a workplace injury. A McHenry County workers’ compensation attorney at Botto Gilbert Lancaster, PC, can determine whether a third party may be liable for your workplace injury. To schedule a free consultation, call 815-338-3838.



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