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Personal Injury versus Workers’ Compensation – Understanding the Differences

People sometimes mistakenly believe that, if they get hurt while on their way to work, they have a workers’ compensation claim. Or, conversely, if they get hurt while on a job site, they think they can file a personal injury claim against their employer. Neither is accurate and it is important to understand the differences between workers’ compensation, a creature of statute, and personal injury claims, a creature of common law. Understanding the distinctions between the two will help you in assessing your legal options after an accident that caused a serious physical injury.

The biggest and most important difference between a personal injury claim and a workers’ compensation claim is the issue of determining fault. For a personal injury claim, fault must be established, and the injured party bringing the claim has the burden of establishing fault. This issue is irrelevant in workers’ compensation claims.

So, for example, if you were injured in a car wreck, you must present evidence that the other driver was negligent (i.e. that they did something wrong or failed to take reasonable steps to prevent a wrong).

Workers’ Compensation = No Worries About Fault

If you were hurt on the job and file a workers’ compensation claim, you are entitled to benefits. Workers’ compensation does not consider fault when issuing benefits. This means that you do not need to prove that your employer and/or your co-workers were negligent in order for you to receive workers’ compensation benefits. Obviously, in order to qualify for workers’ compensation benefits, the injury must have occurred while you were working or while you were on the job site.

Pain and Suffering Damages Not Available in Workers’ Compensation Claims

If you get seriously injured in a car crash or truck wreck, you can pursue restitution for your medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering when you file a personal injury claim. The pain and suffering damages are meant to compensate an injured party for the inconvenience, embarrassment and intangible difficulties associated with a serious physical injury (e.g., waking up in the middle of night with back pain or neck pain, being unable to play with your kids, etc.).

If you file a workers’ compensation claim, you cannot pursue these types of damages. In exchange for workers’ compensation being a fault-free benefit system, you are limited to only pursuing weekly compensation, benefits if you are permanent impaired, medical bills, and/or vocational rehabilitation benefits.

You are Prohibited from Suing Your Employer or Your Co-Workers

In most cases, if you have a workers’ compensation claim, you will not have the ability to file a separate personal injury claim. The workers’ compensation laws were written in a manner to ensure that all workers who get hurt on the job are able to access weekly benefits and get their medical bills reimbursed. In exchange, the law limits the right to sue your employer and/or co-workers for negligence.

There are a few exceptions to this general rule. For example, if you are a railroad worker like a conductor or engineer, then you may be able to pursue a claim beyond workers’ compensation. Interstate railroad workers can take direct legal action against their employers under the Federal Employers Liability Act. But if you are a construction worker in Georgia or Florida and you get hurt on the job, you are likely limited to a traditional workers’ compensation claim.

Speak to an Attorney Today

If you were seriously injured in an accident, it is important to take legal action sooner rather than later. To get a better idea of your legal options and whether you can pursue a workers’ compensation claim or personal injury claim, contact Gillette Law, P.A. today in Florida or Georgia. Our firm offers free, confidential consultations.

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