Worker’s Compensation Carrier Entitled to Recover from Tortfeasors

Dec 27, 2018

In a case involving a subrogation action filed by a worker’s compensation carrier, the Appellate Division recently held that the worker’s compensation carrier was entitled to reimbursement from the negligent tortfeasors, even though the injured employee could not recover the medical expenses and wage loss from his own automobile insurer or pain and suffering damages from the tortfeasors.  NJ Transit a/o Mercogliano v. Sanchez, et al., - N.J. Super. – (App. Div. 2018).

David Mercogliano was employed by NJ Transit and was involved in a motor vehicle collision during the course of his employment with defendant Sandra Sanchez.  The parties agreed that his injuries could not vault the limited threshold because he did not sustain a permanent injury as defined by N.J.S.A. 39:6A-8(a). 

NJ Transit’s worker’s compensation carrier paid him $33,625.70 in benefits.  Mercogliano did not file suit, but NJ Transit initiated a subrogation action pursuant to N.J.S.A. 34:15-40(f).  The trial court dismissed the claim, but the Appellate Division reversed.

The Appellate Division held that a worker’s compensation insurer is entitled to recover benefits paid to an injured employee caused by a negligent third-party tortfeasor.  The court cited earlier precedent recognizing that when a worker is injured in the course of his or her employment in a motor vehicle accident and worker’s compensation coverage is available, the right of the injured worker to pursue claims against the third-party tortfeasor and the right of the worker’s compensation insurer to be reimbursed are governed by the Worker’s Compensation Act not the Automobile Insurance Cost Reduction Act.  See generally, Lambert v. Travelers Indemnity, 447 N.J. Super. 61 (App. Div. 2016).