There is a great deal of confusion surrounding the difference between what injuries can fall under Personal Injury Law and which fall under Worker’s Compensation Law, especially if a person’s injuries happen in the workplace.
Sometimes, people file a claim under worker’s compensation, when it was actually a Personal Injury case.
While it is easy to think all accidents and injuries sustained at a workplace would fall under the Worker’s Compensation guidelines, this is not always the case.
A slip and fall accident at work could be filed under either area of law depending on the circumstances of the slip: Where did the slip and fall happen? What are the general job duties of the employee? What are the circumstances of the fall?
Personal Injury Laws tend to cover injuries sustained in accidents, including some workplace accidents.
Worker’s Compensation typically covers very specific work-related injuries or injuries that have been detailed by law or by contract between the employer and employee.
For example: A construction worker falls off a ladder while at a job location, this would be covered under Worker’s Compensation.
That same worker slipping on a wet floor on his way to the bathroom would have his injuries covered under a Personal Injury claim.
Differences between personal injury cases and worker’s compensation claims can include:
Worker’s Compensation covers work-related injuries or injuries determined by state law that have occurred at a work location or the result of working conditions.
Personal Injury lawsuits are determined by a negligent act of a person or business that they are in some way responsible for the harm that has been caused.
Worker’s Compensation claims generally cover medical expenses, current therapy treatments and a percentage (usually 2/3) of a person’s lost income and are paid out rather quickly with an employee receiving benefits on a weekly or bi-weekly basis.
Only a Personal Injury Case can award an injured person lump-sum damages, or financial compensation to cover future lost wages, loss of quality of life and pain and suffering.
If a person’s work-related injury was the result of someone’s negligence, then they have the right to file a lawsuit under Personal Injury Law.
Once an injured employee has filed a Worker’s Compensation claim, they have forfeited their right to file a lawsuit against their employer for additional damages.
The laws that govern Worker’s Compensation vary from state to state. Not all employers are required to carry Worker’s Compensation depending on several factors, such as:
When a person has been injured due to a work-related act and it is determined that it is a Worker’s Compensation claim, the financial compensation a person can receive is limited:
If a person has been injured at work due to another person’s negligence and liability can be proven, then a Personal Injury lawsuit can award financial compensation to cover:
It’s important to note that a personal injury lawsuit can take months or even years to become final since it has to go through the court system and liability has to be proven.
If you have sustained an injury while at work, there are a few questions to ask yourself when determining which course of legal action to take:
If you have been injured in a work-related accident and are unsure of your rights, or you feel your employer is being unfair, you may want to speak with a lawyer who has experience with Personal Injury and Worker’s Compensation claims.
Consultations with an injury lawyer are usually free and they will listen to your case and let you know if you have a Worker’s Compensation claim or if they feel you have a Personal Injury case.
Additionally, if your case does go to trial, then your attorney has the experience to hire experts and interview witnesses, as well as calculate your losses to win a much higher financial award then if you represented yourself.
Having a lawyer who speaks Spanish is also important, even if you speak some English, as they can better explain your rights and even provide you with legal documents in the language you are most comfortable so that you understand what you are signing.