When an employee is injured on the job, they may be eligible to file either a workers’ compensation claim or a personal injury lawsuit, but many people don’t understand the difference between the two. The purpose of both workers’ compensation and personal injury lawsuits is to provide compensation to injured individuals, and although there are differences between the two, there are also areas of overlap. Workers’ compensation can provide monetary awards to those injured on the job without litigation, but there are some instances when injured workers may be able to bring a personal injury case. Some of these reasons may include:

  • Injuries caused by the negligence of a third party, someone other than an employer or a co-worker
  • Injuries involving a defective product, in which a products liability lawsuit may be brought against the product’s manufacturer
  • Injuries involving a toxic substance, in which a toxic tort lawsuit may be brought against the manufacturer of the toxic substance
  • Injuries occurring as a result of an employer’s intentional or egregious conduct
  • Injuries intentionally caused by an employer or fellow employee

Workers’ Compensation Cases

While workers’ compensation laws cover workers who are injured on the job, if a worker is injured outside the course and scope of his employment, he is not usually afforded coverage under workers’ compensation. This does not mean, however, that he is only covered for injuries occurring at his principal place of work. Employees who are required by their employers to perform work-related activities in other locations, such as construction workers and road maintenance crews, are usually covered by workers’ compensation, as long as the injury occurred while they were engaged in duties related to their employment. Commuting to and from a work site and lunch breaks may be examples of non-work related duties.

Workers’ compensation benefits are typically paid without determining who is at fault for the employee’s injury, and fault is almost never an issue. It is only when an employee’s injury is due to an intentional act of the employer or a coworker, or when an employer violated regulations regarding safety in the workplace, that fault comes into play. Although workers’ compensation provides monetary as well as other benefits to an injured worker, the awards can be quite low compared to those given in a personal injury lawsuit, and workers’ compensation does not cover damages such as pain and suffering.

Personal Injury Cases

Personal injuries can take the form of automobile accidents, slip and falls, dog bites, and injuries suffered in unsafe or dangerous workplaces. Personal injury lawsuits may be brought by any injured person, regardless of where the injury occurred. The key is not where the injury occurred, but whether or not it was due to the negligence of another person.

In a personal injury matter, fault plays a major role in determining liability. Not only must fault be proven, a third party’s fault must have been the cause of the plaintiff’s injury and resulting damages. If fault cannot be established, no liability can be proven, even in the case of a serious injury. Similarly, if the plaintiff suffered no damages, there is nothing to base an award on, even if another party was at fault.

Most states do not have caps on compensation in personal injury cases, and awards may reach hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars — but there are no guarantees. A plaintiff’s recovery is based upon whether or not negligence can be proven, the amount and nature of the damages, and, if the matter goes to trial, the discretion of the jury.

Which Should I Choose?

Most workers who are injured on the job are covered under their employer’s workers’ compensation insurance. They do not need to prove negligence and will most likely file a claim with the workers’ compensation board in their state, or the federal government if they’re a federal employee. In exchange for monetary benefits, workers’ compensation law requires injured employees to give up the right to bring a fault-based personal injury lawsuit against their employer, although under very specific circumstances they might still be able to file such a claim.

In either case, you’ll want to consult an experienced personal injury lawyer who has experience with employees being injured on the job as a direct result of another parties negligence. Greenwald Law Firm is able to help you with these types of matters, among others, no matter how complicated your case may be or seem. We’ll walk you along through the process and help you determine the best course of action to receive the compensation you deserve for you or your loved ones.