Most personal injury claims involve two parties—an injured claimant and a defendant. In many cases, however, a third party is involved by bearing liability for an accident. Below is a description of some of the most common usages of the term “third party.”
Workplace Accidents and Third-Party Claims
Most Florida employers must carry workers’ compensation insurance. Workers’ compensation covers employee losses from workplace accidents. You do not have to prove that your employer was at fault to win your claim.
The disadvantage of a workers’ compensation claim is that you must settle for only economic damages because the coverage does not include compensation for non-economic losses.
Third-Party Workplace Injury Claims
In some workplace accident claims, you can identify a third party who bears liability for your workplace injury.
This might mean:
- The owner of a construction site, if your injury arose from a dangerous onsite condition that the owner should have repaired or warned you about
- The manufacturer of defective work machinery, if that defect caused your injury
- A company responsible for maintaining machinery that malfunctioned and caused you injury
You can sue a third party in court for your injuries. You can also use your right to sue as leverage in settlement negotiations. Either way, you must prove that the third party is liable for your injuries.
The advantage of filing a personal injury claim against a third party is that you might qualify to receive non-economic damages such as pain and suffering in addition to economic damages. Typically, these non-economic damages amount to far more than economic damages.
Third-Party Insurance Claims
In a third-party insurance claim, the victim of a personal injury files a claim against the at-fault party’s liability insurance carrier for an injury caused by the at-fault party. For example, you might file a claim against your neighbor’s homeowner’s insurance for a dog bite. Most third-party liability insurance claims arise from slip and fall accidents and car accidents.
Florida Auto Accident Claims
Third-party car insurance claims often occur in “at-fault” auto insurance states. Florida, by contrast, is a no-fault state. That doesn’t make it impossible to file a third-party insurance claim, but it does erect a formidable barrier.
Florida law requires you to rely on your own Personal Injury Protection (PIP) insurance, regardless of who caused the collision.
However, you can typically file a claim against the at-fault motorist if your injuries are “serious,” as defined under Florida statutory law. Permanent disfigurement, for example, would be serious enough to qualify you to exit Florida’s no-fault system and file a third-party claim against the at-fault driver’s auto liability insurance carrier.
The problem is that Florida is one of only a few states that does not require its drivers to carry automobile liability insurance.
Third-Party Dispute Resolution
In third-party dispute resolution, a third party intervenes in a case but not as a party. For example, a third party might act as a mediator to help resolve your claim in a non-coercive manner. Another option is for the third party to act as an arbitrator, or private judge, to provide a binding resolution of the dispute.
A third-party complaint occurs when the defendant in a lawsuit files a claim against a non-party, alleging that the non-party should pay some or all of any damages assessed against the defendant. In this way, the non-party becomes a third-party defendant.
Suppose, for example, that a motorist hits a pedestrian, and the pedestrian sues the motorist. The motorist might file a claim against the car repair shop by alleging that their brakes failed because the car repair shop negligently repaired them.
What is Vicarious Liability?
The term “vicarious liability” refers to a situation where one party bears liability for an injury caused by another party. Following are some examples.
Dram Shop Law for Alcohol Vendors
After a DUI accident, the victim may be entitled to pursue a claim against an alcohol vendor who knowingly served alcohol to an alcohol-dependent person or to a minor under 21 years old if that person caused the accident. In such cases, the alcohol vendor is a third party who may bear liability.
Courts often hold employers liable for the consequences of the wrongful acts of their employees who were acting within the scope of employment. The employer need not be at fault – instead, the employer is automatically liable regardless of fault.
You are not vicariously liable for the acts of someone you hire if they qualify as an independent contractor. An independent contractor differs from an employee in the independence they enjoy with respect to their duties. If you call a plumber, for example, the plumber is probably an independent contractor.
If you hire a full-time maintenance worker, train them and supply them with tools, they are probably an employee. Only a court can make the final decision on how to classify such people.
Courts sometimes hold parents liable for the actions of their dependent children, even if the parents are not at fault.
Loaning Someone Your Car
You can bear liability for an accident when you loan someone your car and they crash it. You do not have to be in the car when the accident happens, and you are liable even if you exercised the utmost care in loaning your vehicle only to responsible drivers. This doctrine does not apply to car rental companies.
Contact a Fort Walton Beach Personal Injury Lawyer for Help With a Complex Third-Party Claim
Claims involving third-party liability are typically complex. They often depend on the interpretation of ambiguous legal wording or obscure case law. Under such circumstances, you will likely need a lawyer to handle your claim.