The importance of a workers comp judge’s decision cannot be understated. A workers comp decision can impact both a workers comp claim and a civil lawsuit. The Appellate Division recently ruled on a case where a workers comp decision greatly impacted who the worker could sue in New York Supreme Court.
How the workers comp judge’s decision affected who the injured worker could sue
In that case, the injured worker was a school bus matron involved in a motor vehicle accident. The accident happened on the job. As a result of the accident, the injured worker filed a workers comp claim. The injured worker filed the claim against Smart Pick, Inc. as her employer.
The issue of who the injured worker’s employer was at the time of the accident was litigated at the Workers’ Compensation Board. A workers comp Law Judge issued a decision finding Jea Bus Co., Inc. to be the worker’s employer. As such, the injured worker began to receive workers comp benefits from the insurance carrier of Jea Bus Co., Inc. The worker did not appeal the decision.
The worker then filed a lawsuit against the driver of the school bus involved in the accident. Smart Pick, Inc. employed the bus driver. She also sued Jea Bus Co., Inc. Both the driver of the school bus and Jea Bus Co. Inc. asked the trial judge to dismiss the case. The defendants argued that the workers comp law and the comp judge’s decision barred the lawsuit. The trial judge denied the request. The defendants then appealed the decision to the Appellate Division for review.
The Appellate Division’s Decision
The Appellate Division noted in its decision that workers comp benefits are generally the only remedy of an employee against his or her employer for an accident on the job. Thus, a workers comp claimant may not maintain a lawsuit against a defendant from which he or she has already collected workers comp benefits. If the worker feels a workers comp judge’s decision as to the proper employer in a case is incorrect, they may file an appeal. An appeal involves the worker asking the Board to reconsider the Law Judge’s decision. Otherwise, a workers comp Law Judge’s decision as to a worker’s proper employer is binding in a civil lawsuit.
Here, the Appellate Division held that the injured worker’s lawsuit against Jea Bus Co, Inc. must be dismissed. Specifically, the workers comp law barred the injured worker from suing her employer – Jea Bus, Co, Inc.
The Court explained that the injured worker could not accept workers comp benefits from Jea Bus Co, Inc’s insurance carrier and later commence a lawsuit against Jea Bus Co, Inc. The parties already litigated the issue of proper employer before the Board.
This decision shows the importance of a workers comp judge’s decision. A decision at a workers comp hearing may impact not only the workers comp claim, but a worker’s civil case as well. This case demonstrates why an injured worker should seek to hire a lawyer who can handle both the workers comp claim and personal injury lawsuit under the same roof.