When a worker is injured on the job as a result of someone else’s negligence (not a co-worker), he has both a worker’s compensation claim and a personal injury claim for negligence against the third party. Amazingly, there are very few law firms and attorneys who specialize in both. At Jones, Clifford, Johnson & Johnson, we have experienced attorneys in both fields who are used to coordinating the separate but related claims to maximize the recovery to the client.
For example, Glen is a union construction worker. He is injured on the job as a result of a defectively manufactured product. The manufacturer failed to put an appropriate guard on a tool which resulted in Glen’s index finger being severed. Despite multiple surgeries and excellent care by a hand therapist, his doctor has told him he is permanently disabled from his chosen career. The workers’ compensation system is designed to pay all of the related medical expenses and pay a portion of his lost wages. However, because Glen is permanently unable to return to work in construction, and has only limited education and experience outside construction, he will lose future income and benefits which will be almost $1,000,000. How is this possible? Glen is 35 years old and made over $60,000 per year in construction. Because of the injury, his earnings are now limited to $30,000. So he is losing $30,000 per year. Assuming he would have worked another 30 years, 30 years times $30,000 is $900,000.
Our workers’ compensation team will secure Glen the benefits he is entitled to under the system, including excellent physicians who specialize in hand injuries, not the industrial “Doc in the box” clinics the insurance companies want to send you to. But those benefits are limited and do not include Glen’s future wage loss.
Our personal injury team will pursue a claim against the manufacturer of the defective product. This will involve hiring appropriate and costly experts, including mechanical engineers, vocational rehabilitation specialists, and economists, to demonstrate to a jury, as well as the company, why they are liable and how much Glen’s damages are. In negotiations with the manufacturer, the workers compensation carrier will try to recover the money it paid out on Glen’s claim, alleging a lien under the Labor Code. However, by working with the workers compensation team, our personal injury attorney can defeat or radically reduce the amount of the claimed lien, greatly enhancing Glen’s net recovery.
Glen’s attorneys are able to negotiate an excellent settlement which allows him, and his family, some measure of financial security as he faces his future. If he had hired two separate law firms, to represent him in the workers compensation and personal injury claims, the “right hand” may not have known what the “left hand” was doing, resulting in a settlement that was far less favorable to Glen and his family.