While workers’ compensation claims and personal injury lawsuits are often conflated with one another, they’re very different fields of the law. Because they can be easily confused, we have broken down the differences below. It can be hard to tell the difference between a workers compensation claim and a personal injury claim. In fact, some people categorize workers’ compensation claims as personal injury lawsuits, when technically this isn’t actually the case. While injuries can occur during work hours, filing these as a worker’s compensation vs. a personal injury claim depends on a range of factors that may involve hiring an accident recon expert. For example, a slip and fall at work could either be a worker’s comp claim or a personal injury suit, depending on the situation.
Often mistaken for one in the same, a workers’ compensation claim is very different from a personal injury claim. According to the experts at Dini Law not only are the requirements and deadlines different, but a personal injury claim generally involves some sort of fault/negligence on the part of a third party, while workers’ compensation arises when an employee gets injured whilst working, regardless of fault. There are 2 key provisions that separate Personal Injury claims and Workers’ Compensation cases:
- Fault requirement
- Compensation available
The biggest and most significant difference is that personal injury lawsuits are based on fault and who caused injury to the victim and require that the individual being sued is at fault; whereas for a workers’ compensation case, fault is not relevant. This means that workers who get injured during the course of their employment obtain compensation benefits whether or not they’re at fault, or whether or not their boss is at fault. Since nobody is at fault in Workers’ Compensation cases, compensation for damages is generally faster but limited to specific areas.
In some workers’ compensation claims, there may be a third-party personal injury claim for the same injury/accident. These are often known as combination cases. “In case the injury is the result of a third-party, i.e. an individual unrelated to the employee’s occupation, then the employee may have a third-party personal injury claim against the individual who caused the injury” said attorney Joseph from Farzam Law. A somewhat simplistic example of a combination claim is when a cab driver gets hit by another car on the roadway. The cab driver could now have a workers’ compensation case, if they were on the job at-the time of the collision or accident, but also a personal injury lawsuit against the individual who hit the cab driver, in case that person is un-related to the cab driver’s job.
The other big difference in damages between a workers’ compensation case and a personal injury claim, or lawsuit, is that you aren’t entitled to benefits for pain and suffering in the case of a workers’ compensation. This is because the overall concept of workers’ compensation is essentially a trade-off between labor and business owners. But in a workers’ compensation claim, you can only promptly receive weekly compensation whilst away from work, vocational rehabilitation, payment of medical bills, and, where necessary, permanent impairment benefits. In return, injured workers lost their right to sue employers and co-workers for negligence or fault and lost the right to recover damages for pain and suffering. In a personal injury claim or lawsuit, you’re entitled to recover all of the damages suffered. This includes medical bills, future medical expenses, lost earnings and lost earning capacity, pain and suffering, permanent impairment, and loss of life enjoyment (i.e., hedonic damages), amongst other things.
In a personal injury lawsuit, such as a car accident, there’s a single monetary settlement of an agreed-upon amount. In exchange for this, you get to sign a Release which terminates the right to all future claims. On the other hand, in workers’ compensation, most benefits and claims never “settle”, as they’re designed to continue for as long as the injured party meets the criterion to receive them, and for as long as the established claim doesn’t expire due to inactivity (consult your lawyer regarding the statutes of limitations). Worker’s compensation usually covers quite specific injuries or conditions which are clearly listed under contract or by law. Therefore, is you’ve been injured on the job, it is important to speak to a lawyer right away, as there’re strict time limits which apply to your workers’ compensation claim.