Blame for work injuries may belong to unexpected people

Many work injuries and illnesses are not the fault of anybody there with you at the job site, office, vehicle or wherever you work. Such injuries are not all your fault, or your boss’s or any of your coworkers’. Often, much of the blame belongs to somebody else.

If you think this is might be true in your case, there are special steps you should think about taking. The decision is yours, but if at least some of the responsibility belongs to a so-called “third party,” you might do a good deed by speaking up about it.

Illnesses and injuries can come from anywhere

Once you start thinking about it, there are hundreds of ways some stranger you have never met might share responsibility for your injury or illness at work:

  • The neighbor’s dog comes over to the worksite and bites you.
  • Another car hits the vehicle you are driving or riding in while on the job.
  • A chain or belt on a machine breaks and hits you.
  • Your safety goggles, helmet or harness fails when you need it most.
  • Your boss is a subcontractor for a general contractor with low safety standards.
  • You fall on unlighted, slick or broken stairs while doing work in someone’s home.

Why does it matter whose fault it is?

In a way, it is not a deal-breaker. You have rights as a worker in Washington State. If you suffer an injury or illness from work, with very few exceptions you have a right to some help in getting healthy and back to earning a living.

However, there are a few reasons you might be smart to think about this. If a third party is even partly responsible, it might:

  • Help you get more money (“damages”) to make up for your financial losses, pain and suffering, and other harm the illness or injury causes you.
  • Cost your employer less money in workers’ compensation insurance, and your employer might like that.
  • Cost Washington State less money to get you healthy and back on your feet and back on the job.
  • Make the person or company at fault think carefully about letting someone else get hurt or even killed next time.

Check out the pages from Washington State about third-party claims. They want you to know the decision is up to you, but their website gives the impression that they want you to think about helping them out with this.

The state also reminds you that you have several options for filing a third-party claim, including consulting an attorney you choose or allowing the state to pursue the claim.