In Texas, employers who purchase approved workers’ compensation insurance have almost complete immunity from lawsuits when they injure their own employees. This means that the injured workers have to be compensated through the workers' comp system, which is usually a raw deal for the employee. In fact, the injured workers are frequently grossly undercompensated in the workers' comp system. Thus, a good lawyer will look for ways to add to or supplement the compensation paid through the workers’ comp system. One way to do this is to look for a third party that may have contributed to the accident.
There are many situations when someone other than the employer is to blame for the accident. For example, suppose you are driving on a work-related errand, and another car crashes into you, the at-fault driver was not working for your employer, and is therefore considered to be a 3rd party. In this situation, you can receive your normal workers’ comp benefits from your employer’s insurance carrier, but you can also seek compensation from the at-fault driver. This is known as a 3rd party case. (The injured worker is considered to be the 1st party, the employer/co-workers are considered to be the 2nd party, and the party that actually caused the injury is considered to be the 3rd party.) Thus, even when the employer can’t be sued because it bought official workers’ comp insurance, the 3rd party is not immune and can be sued even when you are also receiving workers’ comp benefits. There are many types of 3rd party cases. You have a 3rd party case when there are multiple contractors on a job and one contractor hurts an employee of another contractor. Faulty construction equipment, negligent architects, and negligent property owners all can create opportunities for a 3rd party case. If you do have a legitimate case against a 3rd party, you will be able to recover all the damages that you could not recover in the workers’ comp system – such as your remaining past and future lost wages, pain and suffering, and lost capacity.