When someone gets injured while working, they may have two legal options to pursue compensation for their losses: filing a workers’ compensation claim or a personal injury claim. While both types of claims aim to provide financial assistance to the injured party, they differ in various ways. Here is a breakdown of the differences between workers’ compensation and personal injury claims.
Workers’ Compensation Claims
Workers’ compensation is a state-mandated insurance program that provides benefits to employees who suffer injuries or illnesses related to their job duties. This system is designed to protect employees and their families from the financial burden of lost wages and medical expenses due to work-related injuries.
In most states, employers are required by law to carry workers’ compensation insurance to cover their employees’ work-related injuries. When an employee gets injured while working, they must report their injury to their employer and file a claim with the workers’ compensation insurance carrier. If the claim is approved, the injured worker can receive benefits such as medical treatment, temporary disability payments, and vocational rehabilitation services.
One of the benefits of workers’ compensation claims is that they are a “no-fault” system. Employees do not have to prove their employer was negligent or at fault for their injuries. Instead, workers’ compensation benefits are available regardless of who caused the injury, as long as it occurred in the course of employment.
Personal Injury Claims
A personal injury claim is a lawsuit filed by an injured individual against another person or entity, alleging that they were negligent and caused the injury. Personal injury claims can arise from incidents, such as car accidents, slips and falls, medical malpractice, product liability, and even intentional acts, such as assault or battery, resulting in physical or psychological injuries. To succeed in a personal injury lawsuit, you need to establish that the other party was responsible for your injuries and that these injuries were predictable.
Unlike workers’ compensation claims, personal injury claims require the plaintiff to prove that the defendant was at fault for the injury. It means that the injured party must demonstrate that the defendant had a duty to act reasonably and failed to do so, resulting in the injury. Additionally, personal injury claims can provide compensation for damages that are not covered by workers’ compensation, such as pain and suffering, emotional distress, and loss of consortium.
What are some instances when a personal injury lawsuit applies to a work injury?
When an employee suffers a work-related injury, the first course of action is typically to file a workers’ compensation claim. However, there are some instances where a personal injury lawsuit may also be appropriate. Here are some situations where a personal injury lawsuit may apply to a work injury:
- Defective Products
If an employee is injured while using a defective product at work, they may be able to file a personal injury lawsuit against the product manufacturer. In this case, the employee would need to demonstrate that the product was defectively designed or manufactured and that the defect was the cause of their injury.
- Intentional Conduct
If an employer’s conduct was intentional or could have resulted in serious harm or death, the injured employee may be able to file a personal injury lawsuit. For example, if an employer intentionally removes safety guards on a machine and an employee is injured as a result, the injured employee may have grounds for a personal injury lawsuit.
- Toxic or Illegal Substances
If an employee is exposed to a toxic or illegal substance while on the job, they may be able to file a personal injury lawsuit against the manufacturer of the substance or the employer if they knew or should have known about the risks.
- Lack of Workers’ Compensation Insurance
If an employer fails to carry workers’ compensation insurance or is not required to do so by law, the injured employee may be able to file a personal injury lawsuit against the employer. However, this is a rare situation as most employers are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance.
- Third-Party Negligence
If a work-related injury is caused by the negligence of a third party who is not an employee of the same company, the injured employee may be able to file a personal injury lawsuit against that third party. For example, if an employee is involved in a car accident while driving for work and the accident was caused by another driver’s negligence, the injured employee may be able to file a personal injury lawsuit against the other driver.
Workers’ Compensation vs. Personal Injury Claims: Which is Right for You?
The decision of whether to pursue a workers’ compensation or personal injury claim depends on the specific circumstances of the injury. If the injury occurred while the individual was performing their job duties, a workers’ compensation claim is usually the most appropriate course of action. However, if the injury was caused by a third party, such as a driver who hit the employee while they were working, a personal injury claim may be the best option.
It is important to note that injured workers cannot receive both workers’ compensation benefits and damages from a personal injury lawsuit for the same injury. In most cases, if an injured worker receives workers’ compensation benefits, they are barred from suing their employer for negligence.
In conclusion, workers’ compensation and personal injury claims serve different purposes and have different requirements. If you have been injured while working, it is crucial to consult with an experienced attorney who can evaluate your case and advise you on the best course of action to recover the compensation you deserve.