What is the Difference Between Workers’ Compensation and Personal Injury?

Workers' Compensation vs. Personal Injury

If you’ve been injured at work, you may be wondering what your legal options are regarding both your physical and financial recovery. Workers’ compensation and personal injury are both intended to help with injury-related expenses. But there are some significant differences between these two areas of law.

Workers’ Compensation

Workers’ compensation is an insurance program for employers. It covers any illnesses or injuries that happen on the job, while performing work-related activities. Georgia employers with three or more employees are required to have workers’ compensation insurance. If an employee is injured or becomes ill, their workers’ compensation claim begins when they notify their employer. The employee and employer must complete the required paperwork, and the insurance company will begin to investigate the claim. The injured or ill employee will also likely have to undergo a medical exam.

Workers’ compensation does not require a determination of fault in order to receive benefits. The incident could have been the employee’s fault, a coworker’s fault, or just an accident. If the injury or illness happened at work, it’s covered under workers’ compensation.

Concerning damages, the employee in a workers’ compensation case can recover for their lost pay and medical bills. Other compensation includes vocational rehabilitation, vocational retraining (if they cannot return to your job), money for any permanent disabilities, or death benefits for survivors (if the employee died as a result of the incident).

Personal Injury

Personal injury cases involve someone who was injured because of another person’s negligence. In other words, one person didn’t exercise appropriate care or caution, and someone else got hurt because of it. A personal injury lawsuit begins when the injured party files their case in court and serves the at-fault party with a copy of the lawsuit. The two parties might settle, or the case may go to trial.

Unlike a workers’ compensation case, in personal injury cases, you have to prove some sort of fault or negligence. A personal injury attorney will prepare evidence that shows that another person or group failed to provide the appropriate level of care, and as a result, they are to blame for the losses and injury.

A personal injury case allows plaintiffs to seek compensation for many of the same damages in a workers’ compensation case: lost wages, medical bills. Additionally, in a personal injury case, the plaintiff can also receive compensation for pain and suffering, as well as punitive damages. Punitive damages are designed to punish a defendant for any malicious or egregious acts.

Can You File Both a Workers’ Compensation Claim and a Personal Injury Lawsuit?

Typically, once an employee files a workers’ compensation claim, they cannot file a personal injury lawsuit against their employer for the same injury. Employees usually forfeit their right to sue their employer if they’re collecting workers’ compensation benefits.

However, suppose an employee is injured at work because of the negligence of a third party (not their employer). In that case, the employee may be able to file a workers’ compensation claim as well as a personal injury lawsuit against that third party. Examples of third parties include manufacturers of defective or toxic products, or drivers who caused an accident while the employee was in a work vehicle.

While workers’ compensation and personal injury are both designed to help someone with their physical and financial recovery, these two areas of law have significant differences related to fault and compensation. If you have been injured or become sick at work and want to learn more about your legal rights, please contact Zinns Law at (888) 882-9002 or via our online contact page.  

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