In its most recent post, this blog analyzed the nature of a third-party claim in Connecticut’s workers compensation law. A third-party claim is a civil lawsuit against a party that is not the employer of the injured party but who may have been liable for a portion of the worker’s damages.
We did not examine what happens to a third-party recovery or the effect of a third-party recovery on the employee’s eligibility for continuing workers’ compensation benefits. In a recent decision, the Connecticut Supreme Court reversed a ruling of the state Compensation Review Board that allowed an employer to refuse to pay benefits if the employer succeeded in recovering damages from a third party.
The employee was injured in a work-related automobile accident. He received workers’ compensation benefits and sued the party that caused the accident. The jury awarded damages of $100,000, which was allotted 80 percent to the employer and other parties and 20 percent to the employee.
The employee, however, still required medical care for his injuries. His employer refused to pay, arguing that payment of workers’ compensation benefits after a third-party recovery would constitute a double recovery.
The argument was accepted by the Compensation Review Board, but the Supreme Court reversed this decision. The Court reasoned that third party claims are intended to obtain damages that can be used in part to reimburse employers for benefit payments. Also, the jury award included pain and suffering, which are not elements of workers’ compensation benefits. If the worker were not allowed to keep a portion of the third party recovery, the purpose of the statute would be defeated because few workers would pursue third party claims.
Anyone who has suffered a work-related injury may wish to consult an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer for advice on whether to pursue a third-party claim against a party that may be liable for the worker’s injuries.