If you or a loved one has ever suffered a personal injury at work, you’re far from alone. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that almost 3 million people experienced workplace injuries and illnesses in 2019.
It’s hard to know the difference between a personal injury vs workers’ comp claim. To make matters even more confusing, some people wrongly classify them as interchangeable. But understanding the nuances of both options can help you understand how to get the compensation you deserve, so be sure to read on before making a legal decision.
The fallout of these incidents can be stressful. Most people do everything they can to get quick financial compensation to cover their bills. However, it’s worth noting that accepting fast checks through workers’ compensation isn’t your only option when you’ve suffered a personal injury on the job.
Defining Personal Injury vs Workers’ Comp
When an injury happens at work, filing a claim for a personal injury vs a workers’ compensation claim depends on a number of different factors. To better understand when to file which type of claim, it helps to know the basic framework of each:
You can file a personal injury claim if you were hurt in an accident that was someone else’s fault. Personal injury claims also cover negligence and misconduct, especially when these lead to physical or emotional suffering.
While the most common types of physical injury cases are slip and fall incidents, physical injury law also extends to incidents like car accidents, medical malpractice, and wrongful deaths.
You can file a workers’ compensation claim if you’ve suffered a physical injury at work. However, unlike a personal injury claim, you will not need to prove that another party is at fault. Even if there is no negligence involved, or if the injury was your own fault in some way, you can still recover damages.
State laws vary, but most workplaces are required to offer some type of workers’ compensation coverage. This coverage is designed to protect employees when they’re hurt on the job. As a result, workers’ compensation payments will help cover the financial costs of an injury—from medical appointments to lost wages.
Major Differences Between Personal Injury vs Workers’ Comp
Given the basic definitions above, you might think that these two claims have no overlap. After all, shouldn’t you file a workers’ compensation claim anytime an injury happens at work? However, there are a few key nuances to keep in mind as you consider your legal options.
Damages for Pain and Suffering
In workers’ comp cases, employees are only entitled to compensation covering their basic recovery and financial needs. Even if your employer’s negligence caused your injury, you’ll only receive immediate damages, such as payments to cover your current wage loss and medical bills.
In personal injury cases, on the other hand, employees are entitled to further compensation for pain and suffering as well as future damages. If you can successfully win your personal injury case, you may receive compensation for future medical expenses, permanent injury, lost earning capacity, and more.
As mentioned above, employees are not required to prove fault in a workers’ compensation case. Workers can receive compensation even if they were at fault or if their employer was not negligent. This often allows employees to receive their benefits quickly, as they don’t have to go through the hassle of proving fault.
With a personal injury case, you’ll need to prove that someone else is liable for your injury. In most cases, this will involve proving that the other party was negligent in some way.
Your Right to Sue
Once you have filed a workers’ compensation claim, you lose your right to sue your employer via a related personal injury claim. After all, workers’ compensation was also designed to help protect businesses as well as employers.
However, there are exceptions to this rule, such as when the injury was caused intentionally. An experienced personal injury lawyer can help you understand whether you still have the right to sue after accepting workers’ comp.
When to File a Personal Injury VS Workers’ Comp Claim
The differences between personal injury and workers’ compensation cases can seem subtle, especially if you’re navigating the stressful aftermath of an injury on your own. However, there are a few common cases in which an employee should file a personal injury case:
- Your employer’s negligence has created an unsafe environment that led to your injury.
- Your work injury is the result of a defective product, meaning you would file against the manufacturer.
- Your employer or someone in your workplace acted intentionally in a way that caused you serious harm.
- A toxic or illegal substance caused your injury.
- A third party, separate from your employer, caused your injury.
Essentially, in cases where someone else is obviously at fault for your injuries, you may want to file a personal injury claim against that party instead of accepting workers’ compensation.
Hire a Trusted Work Injury Lawyer
If you’ve been hurt in the workplace, you don’t have to make major legal decisions on personal injury vs workers’ comp alone. Trust our experienced team to help you decide how to get maximum compensation for your injury—and to fight for you in court if necessary.
If you’d like to learn more about how we can help, reach out to us for more information or read our other posts for additional insights.