What is the Difference Between Workers’ Compensation Claims and Personal Injury Lawsuits?

February 8, 2017 @ 9:55 am

construction workers on scaffolding

When you’re injured on the job or because of the negligence of another party, you’re entitled to receive compensation. Whether you file a workers’ compensation claim or a personal injury lawsuit depends on several factors. The type of litigation dictates what you’re able to receive to cover your expenses and any damages.

1.  Who Can File?

Workers’ compensation covers employees of almost all types of businesses, so you’re covered in most cases of job-related injury. These claims are generally handled by workers’ compensation attorneys and are decided via a settlement conference or hearing, often in a short period of time.

Personal injury lawsuits aren’t limited to workplace incidents. Cases may begin immediately or at any time within the statute of limitations. However, even with the expertise of a personal injury lawyer, these claims may be tied up in court for a long time.

2.  Where Did You Get Hurt?

To be eligible for workers’ compensation, your injury must have occurred either onsite at your job or at a remote location where your employer requires you to work. Location doesn’t matter in personal injury lawsuits.

3.  Who’s at Fault?

Fault is irrelevant in workers’ compensation cases. If you were hurt on the job, you’re eligible to file a claim, even if the injury resulted from your own negligence. Personal injury cases require proof of another party being at fault. In some instances, the line between workers’ compensation and personal injury can be blurred, and you may have grounds to sue your employer.

4.  To Sue or Not to Sue?

Collecting workers’ compensation usually means you can’t sue your employer for additional damages. Certain circumstances allow for exceptions to this rule, including:

  • Injuries caused by faulty equipment supplied by a third-party manufacturer
  • Exposure to toxic substances in the workplace
  • Harm deliberately caused by an employer or co-worker
  • Injuries caused by third parties
  • Your employer’s failure to carry workers’ compensation insurance

These exceptions aren’t valid in every state, but if you believe you have grounds for a personal injury suit, a lawyer can help you determine the best course of action.

5.  What Can You Recover?

Under workers’ compensation, you’re entitled to receive a percentage of your regular wages along with coverage for initial medical bills and any losses related to permanent impairment caused by the injury. Your employer is responsible for covering any necessary vocational rehabilitation or job retraining to prepare you for returning to work.

Personal injury settlements include the same coverage as workers’ compensation with the addition of damages for loss of earnings, loss of capacity, ongoing medical bills, property damage and “pain and suffering” resulting in a diminished quality of life.

6.  Who Pays the Legal Fees?

You can expect to pay your lawyer a percentage of your workers’ compensation benefits if you win the case, and you may have to cover costs incurred for any additional legal work. If you lose, legal fees should be waived.

A personal injury lawyer lays out the costs and fees associated with the case in advance, and you’re required to render payment along with a portion of your settlement should you win. Specific payments and fees vary between firms.

Both workers’ compensation and personal injury proceedings can be complicated. If you need help determining which type of claim to file and require legal guidance through the process, contact Morrow, Morrow, Ryan, Bassett and Haik. With over 40 years of trial experience covering all types of personal injury cases, our firm can help you get the compensation you deserve.

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