Traffic accidents, such as the recent tractor trailer vs. fuel tanker collision on I-285 in Atlanta, are one of the leading causes of work-related injuries. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), transportation-related accidents account for 40% of occupational fatalities. Fortunately this incident resulted in neither fatality nor injury. However, had the tanker leaked fuel or ignited, things could have been much worse. Nevertheless, the incident illustrates some of the problems that can arise in transportation-related workers’ compensation claims. The following discusses some of the legal complications that can arise when such a claim arises from a traffic accident.
Determining Fault: Liability of Third Parties
While a worker’s negligence is not a bar to recovery under workers’ compensation law, it may be a factor in determining other issues that may arise in such an incident, such as the employer’s liability to other parties. In this case, it has been ruled that a third driver was in fact responsible for the collision, and neither on-duty truck driver was at fault. While this fact alone would not affect either driver’s hypothetical workers’ compensation claim, it is good news for both companies. If one of the two on-duty drivers had been at fault, their companies would have been liable to the other driver and company for any ensuing injuries or property damages.
Other Damages/Injuries: Liability to Third Parties
Similarly, when an employee is involved in an automobile collision, there are sometimes injuries to other parties as well. These liabilities are not covered by workers’ compensation and can raise complicated questions of who should pay. Sometimes companies will try to disclaim liability and argue that the driver alone should be responsible. This is generally illegal. If you are in an accident while driving on duty, even if it is your fault, the company is responsible financially to the injured party under the legal principle of respondeat superior. They may try to recover indemnity from the negligent driver (and it very often will not be enough), but unless the driver acted intentionally or with criminal recklessness, the company cannot escape ultimate liability.
Related to the questions of fault and damages are questions such as insurance policy or policies will assume liability for which damages. An employer’s workers’ compensation insurance only covers specific damages such as some medical expenses and disability leave. If another party causes the accident—or if another party is injured—other insurance policies will inevitably be involved, leading to a potentially complicated process of sorting out which policies are responsible for which injuries or damages. This can be incredibly confusing and frustrating for somebody facing the process without the assistance of counsel.
Don’t Face the Legal System Alone
If you are injured in a work-related automobile accident, whether as driver or as passenger, you need effective representation to protect your rights. The issues can become extremely complicated—especially if someone else is injured or if the accident was your fault. But don’t let anyone pressure you into giving up your claim! Accidents happen. Some level of guilt may be a natural reaction, but unless you were intoxicated or intentionally caused the accident, you still have a right to workers’ compensation payments. And your employer, not you, is ultimately responsible to others who may be injured. Contact the Atlanta workers’ compensation attorneys at Bader Scott Injury Lawyers today. We will fight for you if your employer tries to oppose your claim.