Personal injury cases can involve different defendants and different insurance companies, and can seem quite complicated to nearly anyone who hasn’t filed a claim before. If you have a potential case, it’s important to understand how personal injury lawsuits work and how you can protect your right to compensation.
In this blog, Greene Broillet & Wheeler, LLP breaks down some basics about personal injury law and third-party liability.
What is a Third-Party Lawsuit?
Personal injury lawsuits come in all shapes and sizes, but are generally a “first-party” or “third-party” claim (or lawsuit). These terms refer to the person who brings the action (the Plaintiff) and their relationship to the insurance carrier that ultimately pays out a policy’s benefits.
The difference is distinct:
- First-party claims involve a direct relationship between the insured and insurer. They are filed against your own insurance company following a loss that is covered by your policy.
- Third-party claims are brought by third parties who do not have a direct relationship with the insurance company, and who allege that the insurer’s policyholder caused their damages.
Drivers, businesses, and property owners purchase third-party coverage to protect themselves in the event that they cause injury or loss to other people. Because it is the insurance carrier that typically pays victims any settlement or judgment awarded against its policyholder, the insurer will also handle their defense. This means that when you bring a personal injury claim against someone you claim to be at fault for your injuries, you’ll most likely be dealing with their insurance company or lawyers paid by their insurance company.
As a victim with a potential third-party case, you should know that insurance companies owe a duty of good faith and fair dealing to their insured, but owe no such duty to third parties.
These corporations value profits more than people and they may not treat you fairly in their attempts to dispute liability and pay you as little as possible. An attorney experienced in representing personal injury victims can help you level the playing field.
How Do I Know if I Have a First-Party or Third-Party Injury Claim?
Having a lawyer review your case will provide the most accurate answer, as it depends on the underlying cause of an accident (which isn’t always clear).
Personal injury claims are intended to make victims whole after they’ve suffered harm and losses. Sometimes, this can be accomplished when injured victims file first-party claims with their own insurance company, provided that those losses are covered under a policy purchased by the victim. For example, you might have a first-party claim if:
- You were injured in a hit-and-run accident and have uninsured motorist coverage.
- You were injured by a driver who was underinsured and carry enough underinsured motorist coverage to make up for the damages their insurance couldn’t cover.
- You are bringing a bad faith action against your own insurance company for losses caused by their failure to properly handle your claim.
It is more often the case, however, that personal injury victims are made whole when they successfully prove that another party is liable for their damages. Some examples of third-party injury cases include:
- Car accident lawsuits against a negligent driver
- Claims against negligent trucking companiesPremises liability lawsuits against landowners
- Lawsuits involving defective or unsafe products
- Wrongful death and survival actions
What Do I Have to Prove in a Third-Party Case?
To be successful in your third-party claim, you’ll need to prove that the defendant is liable for your injuries and related losses. Generally, this means proving negligence and establishing the following elements:
- The defendant’s duty of care;
- The defendant’s negligence in breaching their duty;
- Causation (the defendant’s negligence was the cause of your injury); and
Many personal injury victims bring cases on claims of negligence. However, some cases may plead other theories of liability in addition to or independent of negligence, such as strict products liability, vicarious responsibility (an employer’s liability for employees), or intentional assault / battery.
An attorney can help you better understand the nature of your claim and what you’ll need to prove to secure a financial recovery.
What Damages Can I Recover in a Third-Party Case?
Plaintiffs who prove a defendant’s liability are entitled to a financial recovery of their damages, which are often paid by the defendant’s insurance company in the form of a negotiated settlement or court-ordered judgment.
Damages are different in every case, and it is important to work with attorneys who can help you fully account for all the damages to which you’re entitled – including those you have already suffered and any you may be expected to incur in the future.
Recoverable damages in third-party cases can include:
- Medical bills and future medical expenses
- Lost income and future wages
- Property damage / property loss
- Pain and suffering
- Disability, disfigurement, or lost quality of life
- Loss of companionship / consortium
- Lost financial and emotional support
Third-Party Claims & Work-Related Accidents
The term “third-party” claim is commonly used to differentiate between the types of claims an injured worker may bring after being hurt on the job.
That’s because workers are entitled to workers’ compensation, but may bring civil claims outside of the workers’ compensation system when they can prove a third party is the blame.
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Greene Broillet & Wheeler, LLP is a national-caliber trial practice voted among U.S. News’ “Best Law Firms” list. Based in Los Angeles, our award-winning attorneys focus on fighting for injured victims and families after devastating accidents. If you have questions about a potential third-party injury case, contact us for a FREE consultation.