Verdict - Fall 2013 - (Page 30)

feature A Closer Look: Tips on Finding an Extraordinary Case, Anywhere "T he Big Case" for most personal injury lawyers is as enticing, and elusive, as a siren's song. In our quest, we PI lawyers cover everything from the internet to the interstate, but, what if that "big case" is already signed and sitting on a shelf in our office? Sometimes, what may look at first blush like a straightforward onthe-job injury can also be a claim for medical negligence, products liability, or a toxic tort. BY MIA FRIEDER One of our jobs as personal injury lawyers is to thoroughly mine each injury for every possible claim. One of the most fertile practice areas for generating multiple claims is workers' compensation. Workers' compensation laws across the nation provide injured workers with compensation to cover their basic losses: payment of medical bills, partial defraying of wage losses (through temporary total disability and temporary partial disability),1 and some compensation for permanent disability.2 With few exceptions, workers' compensation bars suits against employers and co-workers, but not against third parties, who through their negligence or the provision of defective products, may have caused or contributed to a worker's injury.3 However, workers' compensation does not cover all potential losses that an injured worker sustains, such as pain and suffering, which does not exist in the workers' compensation system. This type of damage claim can only be brought as part of a negligence claim against a third party, someone other than the employer, arising out of the compensable on-the-job injury. 30 Georgia Trial Lawyers Association It is estimated that each year approximately 31,500 compensable injuries under workers' compensation involve third party claims seeking damages premised on negligence or products liability.4 Although this is only a small percentage of the total workers' compensation cases fi led (approximately 2.1 percent) these claims result in drastically higher settlements than the vast majority of other workers' compensation claims.5 The ability for personal injury practitioners to identify these third party claims is essential. Although there is a lack of data analyzing the numbers and characteristics of third parties, a review of applicable law and literature demonstrates that these parties can be either interrelated with the employer, employment, or employee, such as a subcontractor working alongside the contractor's injured employee or the manufacturer of the employer's equipment, or outsiders, such as a trucking company whose driver strikes an employee on the highway.6 In fact, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, transportation incidents accounted for more than two out of every five fatal work injuries in 2012.7 Over one-half of these incidents (58 percent) were roadway incidents involving motorized vehicles.8 While a third party claim can be as straightforward as an employee being rear ended in the course of his employment, it can also be more subtle, such as an injured worker who is misdiagnosed by a doctor, hospital or occupational medical facility rendering treatment for an on-thejob injury, or an employee who is fatally shot on the job by a customer who was negligently discharged from a psychiatric hospital. In each of these scenarios, the plaintiff has both a compensable claim under workers' compensation, and a third party negligence claim. The first example, the rear-end collision, stems from a common auto accident, while the latter two examples present claims based in medical negligence. Identifying these additional claims does not require practicing in these particular areas, but rather knowing where to look and what to look for when evaluating workers' compensation cases. The purpose of this article is to present a

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Verdict - Fall 2013

Answers in the Ocean: Finding Justice After 10 Years of Searching
The Financial Fraud of Debt Settlement
A Bankruptcy Primer for Injury Lawyers (Part One)
Planning for Victory with Focus Groups
A How to Guide to Economic Damages Evaluation: With or Without an Expert
A Closer Look: Tips on Finding an Extraordinary Case, Anywhere
GTLA Out & About
Case Updates: What’s New?
Workers’ Comp: Recent Developments
Notes: What’s New with GTLA Members
Welcome New GTLA Members!

Verdict - Fall 2013