Many Delaware residents are injured in auto accidents while traveling or driving for work purposes. For instance, an employee making a delivery for the employer may be injured in a car accident, or a home health aide who travels to/from patients’ homes may be injured in a car accident while driving to a patient’s home.
What many people do not know is that after a work-related accident in Delaware, they may be able to file both a workers’ compensation claim and a separate tort or injury claim. This is a well-established principle under Delaware accident law. The workers’ compensation claim is filed with the employer, while the injury claim is filed against the at-fault driver. For example, see Duphily v. Delaware Elec. Coop. Inc., a 1995 Delaware Supreme Court case. This also applies to work-related auto accidents such as car, truck and pedestrian accidents. See Bell-Atlantic v. Saporito, a 2005 Delaware Supreme Court case.
Employer PIP Benefits & Delaware Auto Accidents
In some instances, an injured worker in Delaware may be able to file a claim for auto insurance benefits (i.e., PIP benefits) under the employer’s auto insurance policy. This generally applies to employees injured in auto accidents while driving an employer-owned vehicle, like a delivery truck or company car.
For example, an employee is driving a company car to a meeting in downtown Wilmington and is injured in a car accident caused by another driver. The injured worker suffers serious injuries which require extensive medical treatment and is unable to return to work for several months.
Here, depending on the employer’s auto insurance policy and workers’ compensation policies and procedures, the injured employee may receive PIP benefits under the employer’s auto insurance policy, up to the amount purchased. The minimum amount of PIP benefits required under Delaware auto insurance law is $15,000. Once the PIP amount is exhausted, the injured worker would receive workers’ compensation benefits for medical treatment and lost wages.
In a subsequent auto accident injury lawsuit against the at-fault driver, the injured employee may make a claim for pain and suffering, the physical pain and mental or emotional anguish caused by the accident. In addition, the employee may make a claim for all of the medical bills and lost wages which were actually paid by the employer. However, Delaware Workers’ Compensation law provides that in the event an injured employee obtains financial recovery from a tortfeasor (at-fault party), the employer may assert a lien or subrogation interest. See 19 Delaware Code Section 2363(e). The idea behind this scheme is to prevent an employee from receiving compensation twice – once through workers’ compensation and then again from the at-fault party.
Using the example above, the injured employee may be required to reimburse the employer for the amount of the workers’ compensation benefits. Generally, the employer and the injured employee’s attorney will come to an agreement on how much is to be repaid, taking into consideration the costs incurred to obtain a recovery, i.e., court costs, fees, attorney’s fees, etc.
Every employer has different insurance policies with varying coverage amounts. In addition, employers have different policies and procedures related to how workers’ compensation benefits are paid in the event of an auto accident. Therefore, if you’ve been injured in a work-related auto accident in Delaware, you should speak to a knowledgeable auto accident injury lawyer to ensure that your full legal rights are protected.
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