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Personal Injury Lawsuits vs. Workers Compensation Claims

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What Is the Difference between Personal Injury and Workers Compensation?

It can be difficult to tell the difference between a personal injury lawsuit and a workers compensation claim. In fact, some people classify workers compensation claims as personal injury claims, when technically this is not actually the case.

While injuries can happen during work hours, filing them as a personal injury vs. a worker’s comp claim depends on different factors. For instance, a slip and fall at work can either be a personal injury suit or a worker’s comp claim, depending on the situation. Worker’s comp usually covers very specific injuries or conditions that are clearly listed by law or under contract.

Some main differences between personal injury lawsuits and worker’s compensation claims include:

  • Determining Fault: Someone needs to be liable or at fault in order to file a personal injury lawsuit. In most cases, this will involve some form of negligence. In comparison, workers compensation can often cover specific injuries even if the employer or a supervisor were not at fault.
  • Damages: In a personal injury case, you are entitled to all forms of damages that you have experienced, including pain and suffering if it can be proven. In contrast, worker’s compensation does not include pain and suffering. Also, worker’s comp usually involves weekly or periodic payments, while injury damages can sometimes be collected in lump sums.
  • Right to Sue: Technically, you cannot  file a lawsuit against an employer once you have filed for workers comp. In most cases a worker forfeits their right to sue an employer if they have filed for or are currently collecting workers compensation for that particular injury.

Thus, the main difference between the two usually has to do with liability. Once you get a basic idea of who might be liable for the injury, it quickly becomes clear whether to file an injury lawsuit or a worker’s comp claim.

Are All Employees Covered by Workers’ Compensation Coverage?

No, not all employers are required to have workers’ compensation coverage within their company or workplace. State laws vary and whether an employer should have workers’ compensation depends on how many employees the company has, the type of business it is, and what type of work the employees are doing. In addition, some employees, such as independent contractors or seasonal workers, are not covered in some states with workers’ compensation.

What Are the Damages I Can Recover?

The difference in damages between a personal injury lawsuit and a workers’ compensation claim is that an employee is not entitled to benefits for pain and suffering in a workers’ compensation claim. In a personal injury lawsuit, an employee is entitled to recover all the damages that they suffered.

This includes lost wages and earnings, lost future wages and earnings, medical bills, future medical expenses, pain and suffering, and loss of enjoyment of life.
In addition, workers’ compensation benefits are usually given to the employee in a timely manner, usually within days.

In a personal injury case, an employee might not receive compensation for their injuries for months or sometimes years because personal injury cases typically take much longer to finalize since it goes through the court and fault has to be proven. 

What Are Some Issues to Consider When Choosing Legal Options?

If you have been injured in a work setting, you may wish to consider the following factors when considering legal remedies:

  • Who is liable for the injury
  • Whether the injury was directly caused by performance of work tasks
  • Whether the injury was a one-time event or a recurring condition

If you have further questions regarding an injury, it may be necessary to discuss more with your employer, or hire a lawyer for more advice.

Can I File a Workers’ Compensation Claim and a Personal Injury Lawsuit?

Typically, an employee cannot file a personal injury lawsuit against their employer or another employee if they have already filed a workers’ compensation claim. However, in some workers’ compensation claims, there may be a third party involved in the accident or injury. These are called combination cases.

If the accident or injury was the result of a 3rd party, i.e. a person who is unrelated to the employee’s job, then the employee may file a separate personal injury lawsuit against the 3rd party who was liable for the employee’s injury. 

Do I Need a Lawyer for Help with Injury or Worker’s Compensation Laws?

Injury and workers compensation laws have a special relationship that is often difficult to understand. You may need to hire a qualified injury lawyer if you need help with a legal claim. Your attorney can inform you of the different options available to you with regards to an injury that occurred in a work setting. Also, if you need to appear in court or before a judge, your lawyer can help represent you in those times.

Photo of page author Ki Akhbari

, LegalMatch Legal Writer

Last Modified: 05-11-2016 03:59 PM PDT

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