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Liability For Acts Of Third-Parties

July 3, 2010

Under Missouri law, an employee who is injured at work can make a worker’s compensation claim. However, when the employee is injured as a result of the negligence of a third-party, then such employee can pursue a personal injury case as well. If the employee pursues both a worker’s compensation claim and a personal injury case against the third party, then there are several things that need to be considered.

You need to advise your client that there will be a worker’s compensation lien in his or her case. See Mo. Rev. Stat. § 287.150.3 and Ruediger v. Kollmeyer Brothers Service, 501 S.W.2d 56 (Mo. 1973). Generally, such lien will be comprised of the amount spent by the worker’s compensation carrier for the claimants medical expenses and past wages. The lien is generally reduced by the reasonable attorney fee and the employer’s pro rata share of the case expenses.

Generally speaking, it is a good idea to make sure that the worker’s compensation claim is resolved before settling the third-party case. Otherwise, the worker’s compensation carrier will simply assert its lien in the third-party case and reduce it by the amount it would have paid to settle the worker’s compensation claim. When this happens, the worker’s compensation lawyer essentially has the rug pulled out from under him or her. There are several ways to deal with this problem, but the most effective way to handle this issue is to simply make sure that the worker’s compensation claim is settled first.