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Does Receiving Workers’ Comp Benefits Affect Your Recovery for Damages?

In Arizona, many employees are covered by workers’ compensation coverage that pays out for wage loss and medical expenses in the event that an employee suffers an injury in the workplace or while otherwise performing their duties.

Workers’ compensation is an exchange that is often sensible for both parties.  Employers agree to provide no-fault coverage, which gives employees the right to obtain workers’ compensation benefits even if there was no negligence or wrongful conduct involved, while employees agree to give up their right to sue the employer (and thereby obtain damages through standard litigation).

Many employees understand the basics of workers’ compensation, but aren’t quite sure what to make of “borderline” situations where they are also entitled to sue a third-party that is liable for their injuries.

Suppose, for example, that you are injured in a car accident while using the company vehicle to deliver products to a warehouse.  Though the accident was not the fault of your employer, you would be entitled to submit a claim for workers’ compensation to obtain benefits that account for your wage loss and medical expenses.

Now, even though you are not entitled to sue your employer, you might be entitled to sue a third-party — perhaps the negligent driver that collided with you — to secure a more extensive range of damages.

Oftentimes, injured employees are incentivized to bring an action against a liable third-party as workers’ compensation benefits can be quite limited — workers’ compensation benefits may only cover medical expenses and wage loss.  While significant, these may not be sufficient to account for all your damages.

By suing a third-party, you gain access to a much broader range of damages: pain and suffering, emotional distress, property loss, and more.

Application of the Collateral Source Rule

In Arizona, the collateral source rule ensures that you can not only secure workers’ compensation benefits, but also make a claim for wage loss and medical expenses (along with other damages) against the liable third-party.

What is the collateral source rule, exactly?

It’s actually quite simple.  Basically, the rule prevents the introduction of evidence relating to bills paid by a “collateral source,” such as workers’ compensation, or a health insurer.  For example, if you had all your medical expenses paid off by workers’ compensation insurance, you could still claim those medical expenses as damages in your lawsuit against the liable third-party defendant.  The defendant could not introduce evidence of your workers’ compensation benefits, and would therefore be required to pay your medical expenses (even though you already paid them off thanks to workers’ compensation).

Stated succinctly: the collateral source rule allows you, in certain limited circumstances, to obtain a financial windfall in the form of a “double recovery.”

Speak to an Experienced Phoenix Injury Lawyer for a Free and Confidential Consultation

The attorneys here at Hirsch & Lyon have over 65 years of combined experience representing the injured in a range of motor vehicle accident lawsuits (car, truck, motorcycle, and pedestrian disputes), including those that involve related workers’ compensation claims.

We are both client-oriented and results-focused.  Over the years, we have secured hundreds of millions of dollars on behalf of injured clients, working tirelessly to secure favorable verdicts and settlements.  We are thorough about preparing for the possibility of trial, and as such, we have a competitive advantage during negotiations.

Call 602-535-1900 today to get connected to an experienced Phoenix injury lawyer for a free consultation.

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