There are cases where the on the job accident is just the first of several unfortunate events causing harm to an innocent worker. Where the disabled employee suffers a subsequent accident aggravating the injuries suffered in the work accident or otherwise suffers a subsequent injury causally related to the work accident (e.g. medical malpractice in the treatment of the work related injury, compensable consequences to the non-injured limb from favoring the injured side, side effects from strong pain medications), the injuries from the second accident are often covered by Workers’ Compensation. Accordingly, the employer, its insurance carrier or the third party administrator ("TPA") have an interest in a recovery for the subsequent injury. This is important because settlement of this "second claim" without permission from the employer or their insurer may "prejudice" the employer. They can claim "prejudice," because they cannot then get their money back for what they have paid for medical treatment, wage loss, etc. for their injured employee. When a worker settles her subsequent injury case without the permission of the workers compensation insurer, and the workers comp carrier has paid for medical care, time loss or other benefits, the disabled employee will likely forfeit future Workers’ Compensation benefits. Where the employer is not prejudiced because the second injury does not increase the employer’s obligation to pay additional medical bills or weekly compensation, no forfeiture results.
As an example, Jane Doe injures her lower back catching a falling crate at work, and is excused from work while recovering from spine surgery. Then, at "Back to School" night, another parent accidentally cuts her finger off with a paper cutter. Jane could probably probably settle the severed finger case without jeopardizing her comp benefits from the on the job back injury, since the medical care is unrelated and she was already on "off work" status after the surgery on her lumbar spine. However, if Jane gets a an infection as the result of a botched post-operative epidural injection, she could bring a "third party" negligence claim against the physician, but she could not settle that case without the worker comp insurer’s permission, since it is related to the care for her compensation injury and its aftermath. In cases such as theses, where there may be more than one claim affecting an individual or family, it is important to have experienced legal counsel. Make sure that you have experienced workers compensation counsel for your Virginia, Maryland or Washington DC comp claim.