What Is Third-Party Auto Accident Liability?

On Behalf of | Nov 16, 2017 | Car Wrecks

Auto accidents happen, as one might expect, every hour of every day. The majority of them are two-car or single-vehicle accidents, involving individuals or families out and about, but sometimes they can have added wrinkles – namely, accidents can involve those acting within the scope of their own employment. If someone on the clock in Texas experiences an auto accident due to the negligence of another driver, they may obtain workers’ compensation from their employer in most cases. However, they may also bring suit against the driver who caused the accident.

Who and When to Sue

Most of the time, if an employee is injured on the job, they would file for workers’ compensation and seek payment of their medical bills in that manner. However, if someone else who is not affiliated with your employer causes the accident – for example, a private citizen losing control of their car – it would be against the public policy of the state of Texas to not permit the injured party to sue just because their employer might pay their relevant medical bills. An injured person may file for workers’ compensation and also pursue a third-party negligence lawsuit against the other driver in the crash.

It is important to keep in mind, however, that if you are successful in both endeavors (workers’ compensation and in a third party suit), your employer’s insurer may expect to be repaid out of the proceeds of such a suit. This is called subrogation, and it is a statutory right in Texas and many other states. (In other words, your employer’s insurer has this right whether you know about it or not). Most insurance carriers will require subrogation if you as a plaintiff are awarded more than you require to pay off your medical bills. However, they will be repaid out of your net proceeds, not your gross proceeds (in other words, you will be able to pay your costs and bills regardless of how much the insurer is owed).

The Role of the Insurer

The role of your employer’s insurer will differ depending on the specific facts of your case, but it is a fairly sure bet that the company will get involved in some way. The main question is often the manner in which an insurer will seek subrogation – sometimes the insurer may wait until after the suit has been decided, but sometimes the insurer will intervene in your (the plaintiff’s) pending suit. The doctrine of intervention is more often used in federal court, but it does occur in state cases, and is defined in roughly the same way – intervention is when a third party joins a lawsuit, either with the court’s permission or the plaintiff’s, because they are able to show that they have a vested interest in the outcome of the case, and should thus be heard.

If the insurer intervenes in your negligence case, it is important to know that timing is a factor. The intervention must happen as soon as the insurer learns that it should do so, and even if they do wait, there is a statute of limitations on such claims (in Texas, claims of this nature must be filed within 2 years of the original accident). If the carrier does not intervene, the right of subrogation still exists, but if neither you as the injured plaintiff nor the insurer files a claim against the third party within 2 years, the cause of action will be dismissed as moot.

Call Our Auto Accident Lawyers

While many workers’ compensation cases are straightforward, a third-party auto accident claim can significantly complicate matters. In order to ensure that your interests are protected, contacting our passionate New Braunfels car accident attorneys would be a good first step. The Bettersworth Law Firm boasts attorneys who work with these cases on a regular basis and are happy to try and help you with yours. Contact us today to set up an initial appointment.