What Is a Third Party?

The term “third party” has more than one meaning in law. One of the most common usages occurs when you file a third-party lawsuit seeking liability for injuries arising from a workplace accident.

Other uses are common as well, even within the realm of personal injury law.

Workplace Accidents

Some jobs are inherently dangerous. Construction work, for example, results in many injuries and more than a few deaths every year. How you handle a workplace injury depends on who was at fault. There are three possibilities:

  • File a workers’ compensation claim against your employer.
  • File an ordinary personal injury claim against a third party (you are the first party, your employer is the second party, and the party responsible for your accident is the third party).
  • File both a workers’ compensation claim against your employer and an ordinary personal injury claim against the third party.

Which option you choose depends on the circumstances of your case.

The Problem With Workers’ Compensation Claims

The workers’ compensation system was designed to prevent workplace accident lawsuits from clogging the courts and driving employers into bankruptcy. For employees, it does offer one major advantage in that you don’t have to prove your employer was at fault to obtain benefits. You can obtain benefits in most cases even if the accident was your own fault.

The disadvantages of workers’ compensation claims, however, outweigh the advantages for most claimants. Compensation is very limited compared to the compensation available in personal injury claims. Workers’ compensation will pay for all of your reasonable medical expenses. It will only pay for two-thirds of your lost wages, up to a maximum amount. 

Workers’ Compensation Claims and Non-Economic Damages

Another disadvantage of workers’ compensation is that you cannot claim non-economic damages such as pain and suffering. In an ordinary personal injury lawsuit, non-economic damages often add up to well over 50% of your total compensation. 

In all likelihood, a workers’ compensation claim will net you less than half of the amount you might win in a personal injury lawsuit. 

Third-Party Personal Injury Claims

In a third-party personal injury claim arising from a workplace accident, you can win ordinary personal injury damages, including full lost earnings and non-economic damages, if you can find a third party to sue. 

Following are some examples of third parties you might sue over a workplace accident:

  • The owner of the premises you worked on, if your employer does not own the premises and your injuries arise from a dangerous condition on the premises. You might have suffered a slip and fall accident at a construction site, for example.
  • A general contractor, if you work for a subcontractor and the general contractor’s negligence caused your accident. 
  • A motorist who caused a car accident that injured you, assuming you were driving for your employer at the time of the accident.
  • The manufacturer of defective factory equipment, if you are injured at work by the defect.

The disadvantage here is that, unlike a personal injury claim, you have to prove that the third party was at fault to win.

“Plowing Both Sides of the Fence”

Under certain circumstances, you can win workers’ compensation from your employer and ordinary personal injury damages from a third party. What you cannot do, however, is collect compensation from both your employer and a third party for the same injury. 

This is where the assistance of a skilled personal injury attorney can potentially save you a lot of money.


To prevent you from receiving double compensation for a workplace accident, your employer can intervene in your lawsuit against the third party to recover some of their workers’ compensation costs related to your accident. 

That doesn’t necessarily prevent you from receiving full non-economic damages and more money than you would have won if you had pursued only one claim.

Other Types of Third-Party Claims

Following is a rundown of some of the other ways that the term “third party” is used in a legal context:

  • Third-party insurance claims: If you suffer an injury that someone else caused, and they carry liability insurance that covers your injury, you can file a third-party insurance claim. That means you file a claim against the at-fault party’s liability insurance policy. In this case, you are the third party.
  • If someone sues you, and you believe that someone else is ultimately responsible, you can file a third-party lawsuit against that at-fault party. In this way, you can bring them into the lawsuit. The idea is that you ask the court to hold the third party liable for any claim that the complainant wins against you.
  • Vicarious liability: If an on-duty employee injures you through a wrongful act, you can probably sue the employer. In other words, the employer bears third-party liability for the wrongful act of the employee.

Several other types of third-party liability exist as well.

Talk to a Qualified Chicago Personal Injury Attorney

If you have run into a third-party situation involving a sizable personal injury claim, hiring a personal injury attorney in Chicago, IL, is probably your best bet. You will probably come out ahead financially even after you pay your legal fees and case expenses.

Most Chicago personal injury attorneys offer free consultations too, so you can get some initial advice without hurting your pocket. Reach out to  Zayed Law Offices Personal Injury Attorneys at (312) 726-1616 to schedule a free consultation.