Motor Vehicle Accident While You Are At Work
By Diana Robles, Associate Attorney
What happens if your job requires that you drive somewhere, and you are involved in a motor vehicle accident? If you are injured, at any time while you are at work you are entitled to workers compensation benefits. So if your job requires that you drive, and you are involved in an accident then you can usually file a workers compensation claim. There are of course some exceptions in being able to file a claim, for example the employer or insurance carrier may deny benefits if the employee has so deviated from his expected route that he should not truly be considered to still be working. Throughout the years, cases have been decided which can give some guidance as to when there is a valid workers compensation claim and when there isn’t, if an employee has deviated from his “work route”.
A workers compensation claim can be brought even if you are the one who caused the accident. If however, you are not at fault you may be entitled to have both a workers compensation claim open, and a civil personal injury claim against the person who negligently caused the motor vehicle accident.
Arizona law provides that if you recover anything from that the third party liability claim, the workers compensation carrier may have a right of subrogation against that recovery in that civil matter. In fact, as the injured person you need to get permission from the workers compensation carrier to come to a settlement with this negligent party. You also need to be aware that if you are planning on filing a claim against the person who caused that accident, the claim needs to be resolved within the first year.
Ordinarily, Arizona law given an individual two years from the date of injury to file a claim for negligence against an individual. In instances, when a person is injured while they are working, they have only one year to settle or file a lawsuit against the negligent party. The second year, that cause of action is given to the insurance carrier so that if a worker has elected not to pursue a claim, they can sue on that person’s behalf. If that first year after your date of injury is nearing, to protect your rights you must file a lawsuit against the negligent party. Otherwise, you will have lost that right.
That being said, most carriers don’t want to have to pursue this claim, so if your year is starting to run one option is to ask the carrier for a reassignment of that claim. This can make matters very complicated and if you are in this situation you should contact a workers compensation attorney and a personal injury attorney right away, so that your rights are protected in both matters.