Groups » Workplace Injury? Will You Opt for Workers’ Compensation or Personal Injury Claim?

We would like to believe that workers’ compensation benefits will take care of us if we suffer from injuries at the workplace. This is true in a lot of cases. However, this state-mandated insurance comes with many terms and conditions attached. In certain cases, workers’ compensation is limited in nature, and does not cover all the possible injuries that can occur at a workplace, or the actual extent of the damage financially and emotionally.

If you are working with hazardous substances, and your co-worker accidentally drops something corrosive and acidic on you, and you end up getting a third-degree burn, your workers’ compensation claim may not pay for your injury and consequent damages. That is where personal injury lawsuits come in, during work-related injuries.

In this article, we look at the significance of a personal injury lawsuit in a workplace accident, and situations and circumstances where a personal injury lawsuit becomes a favored option over workers’ compensation.

Let us begin with the primary differences between workers’ compensation and personal injury claims.

Fault is the Determining Factor

In a workers’ compensation case, there is no concept of fault. If you are an employee and are injured on the job, you are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. You do not have to explicitly establish negligence or fault. In fact, even if you were negligent and it was your negligence that caused the injury, you are still eligible for workers’ compensation benefits.

But if you are suing your employer or a third party, such as another employee for personal injury damages at the workplace, you will need to establish clear liability or negligence. Workers' compensation benefits acts as an insurance, and disallows an employee from suing his or her employer. When you opt for personal injury litigation, you waive your workers’ compensation benefits. When you undergo much pain and suffering, which the workers’ compensation amount will not cover, filing a personal injury case with an expert attorney is your best bet to receive adequate damage compensation. The awarding of damages is the next major difference.

Awarding of Damages

Personal injury lawsuit allows you to recover all of the damages that you have suffered. The operative word here is ‘all.’ When you opt for workers’ compensation benefits, you will receive medical care, few weeks of weekly compensation, permanent impairment benefits, and retraining costs. Workers’ compensation does not cover pain and suffering.

If you are earning a fair wage and have a seasoned workers’ compensation attorney by your side, this could be a fair deal. Also, workers’ compensation awards are not taxed. Though workers’ compensation is designed to foster a healthier work culture for employees, there are limits to the range of injuries and situations that it can cover. Wage replacement is generally two/thirds of the worker's’ average wage, but there is a fixed limit that the benefits will not exceed. At the same time, insurance adjusters also try to minimize the claim immensely, so that the company needs to pay as little as possible.

In a personal injury lawsuit, you can recover your lost earnings, earning capacity, medical bills, future medical expenses, permanent impairment and immobility costs, pain and suffering, and loss of enjoyment of life. Personal injury cases clearly allow for a wider range of damages to be claimed than workers’ compensation.

When You Should Think of a Personal Injury Lawsuit

“Ascertaining liability is the primary factor on which you should form your decision of opting for workers’ compensation or pursuing a personal injury case. If there is clear liability that you can attribute and the workers’ compensation does not cover the extent of damages that you are claiming, it is advisable to go for a personal injury claim. In certain cases, the injured also receives punitive damages,” renowned Georgia workers’ compensation lawyer opines.

Here are some of the situations where you should sue for the injuries that you have received and the damages that you have suffered.

Perennially unsafe working conditions that have resulted in a slip and fall case, or a heavy object falling on the worker.

Open wires or defective power cords that leads to electrocution of an employee.

Continued use of asbestos at the workplace in spite of knowing the inherent dangers.

These are a few of the situations where you can receive higher claims for damages when you think beyond workers’ compensation benefits. Consulting with an attorney who specializes in workers’ compensation and personal injury lawsuits will help you get clarity and proceed in the right legal direction.

Workers’ compensation is a program that was designed initially to provide help and a fallback option for workers. However, as discussed earlier, sometimes injury does occur due to hazardous working conditions, defective product usage, intentional and callous conduct of employers, absence of employers’ workers’ compensation insurance, and negligence of the company or a colleague. In all of these cases, when clear liability can be attributed, higher damage claims can be received when a personal injury lawsuit is pursued.

Exploring Combined Personal Injury and Workers’ Compensation Claims

In workplace accidents which are covered by workers’ compensation and also involve third party negligence (who is not the employer), the injured can pursue workers’ compensation claims and a third party lawsuit simultaneously. However, there is a lien on the workers’ compensation carrier to prevent double recovery.

The rationale for this course of action is simple: Workers’ compensation does not provide for pain and suffering experienced. However, it is a no-fault compensation claim, which means that an injured worker can get immediate medical care and a portion of lost wages without going through the impending period of a settlement. Whether in a workers’ compensation claim, personal injury lawsuit, or in a combined option, make sure that you discuss your options thoroughly with your attorney, and pick the option that is best suited for you and gives you the maximum claim amount.

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