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How is a Workers’ Compensation Claim Different from a Personal Injury Lawsuit?

July 20, 2017

Accidental injuries occur in many ways, including automobile collisions, slips or falls, product liability, and dog bites. In many cases, injuries occur as the result of someone else’s carelessness, or negligence, but sometimes people are injured because of their own actions. When another person causes your injury, the responsible person can sometimes be found legally liable, and therefore owe you damages. If you cause your own injury, you are often out of luck.

One factor that has a major impact on how an injury will be handled is whether or not the injury was work-related. If the injury was work-related, you can normally pursue a workers' compensation claim.

The question of fault

Most personal injury claims revolve around the concept of negligence. In a negligence claim, the injured person must show that the person who caused the injury was negligent. Negligence occurs when someone acts in a way that a reasonably prudent person would not act under the same set of circumstances. For example, if someone were to be injured in a car accident because another driver was speeding and ran through a red light, the speeding driver was almost certainly negligent because it is not reasonably prudent to speed and run red lights. In this case, the speeding driver would therefore be liable to the injured person for the harm that was caused.

In the case of workers' compensation claims, the issue of negligence is irrelevant. Workers’ compensation is a no-fault system. In fact, in the case of workers’ compensation, it is possible for an employee to suffer an injury that is the result of his or her own carelessness, and still collect compensation. For instance, if you were at work, and spilled oil on the floor, and then slipped in the oil that you just spilled, therefore breaking your leg, you could still collect workers’ compensation, even though you were the cause of your own injury.  

There are certain exceptions to this, for example, if a person is injured at work while committing a crime, they might be prevented from collecting workers’ compensation. Also, if someone was injured because they flagrantly violated safety regulations that were in place, or because they started a fight with a co-worker, they might find themselves unable to collect compensation. 

Forms of compensation

Another difference between workers’ compensation and a personal injury claim against a third party is the types of compensation available. In a personal injury claim, it is possible for the injured person to collect damages, including compensation for medical expenses, missed time from work, pain and suffering, and in some cases, punitive damages, which are available when the person who caused the accident behaved in a particularly egregious way.

In the case of workers’ compensation, the benefits are limited to medical expenses, including treatment, such as rehabilitation, and some wage replacement. Workers’ compensation benefits will not include damages for pain and suffering, nor will it include punitive damages. As a result, the payouts for workers’ compensation are often smaller than the monetary damages in civil lawsuits arising from personal injury claims.  However, if your injury were caused by another person or company other than your employer while you were on the job, you can normally pursue a personal injury claim against those responsible while also pursuing a workers' compensation claim.

If you suffered an injury, whether or not it was work-related, contact our attorneys at Montlick & Associates to learn about your legal rights as well as what steps are necessary to protect those rights.

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Please Note:
Many of our blog articles discuss the law. All information provided about the law is very general in nature and should not be relied upon as legal advice. Every situation is different, and should be analyzed by a lawyer who can provide individualized advice based on the facts involved in your unique situation, and a consideration of all of the nuances of the statutes and case law that apply at the time.