When workplace accidents occur, many Illinois employees assume that workers’ compensation benefits are the only form of compensation they are eligible for. Sometimes, the nature of injuries they sustain and the costs associated with them far exceed the value of benefits they can recover.

Accidents that occur on the job or during the commission of work duties do not always solely involve negligence from the employer or employee. Many injured workers do not realize that there are conditions where they can file third-party liability claims without losing their right to receive workers’ compensation. Here is a brief explanation of third-party liability and workers’ compensation claims. 

The burden of proof falls to the plaintiff 

Proving that another entity is responsible for an accident that results in trauma is not easy. However, in third-party liability claims, the burden of proof falls to the accident victim who is seeking damages. He or she must establish that the negligent party’s actions contributed more than their own actions to the incident and injuries that they have. 

Third party claims use a fault system 

The law uses contributory negligence to determine the outcome of third-party liability claims. If the defendant can prove that the plaintiff’s injuries are partially the result of personal negligence, the victim may lose the right to receive compensation. The contributory negligence statute prohibits the plaintiff’s ability to recover damages if they are 50% or more at fault for the incident. Plaintiffs who can prove that their percentage of negligence was less than 49% may recover damages from defendants that are proportional to their amount of contributory negligence. 

It is important for employees to understand the difference between workers’ compensation benefits and third-party liability claims. Workers’ compensation does not use fault to determine benefit eligibility. In third-party claims, establishing the contributory fault of all involved parties is vital. Not all workplace accidents and injuries involve third-party liability.