Workers’ Compensation Claims and Personal Injury Lawsuits: Charting the Path to Take
A worker who is injured in the workplace can choose to either seek compensation for their losses and expenses through the personal injury lawsuit route or through the workers’ compensation route. Sometimes, there able to use both ways to make sure that they are adequately compensated for what they have been through. This article looks at how these two alternatives differ, and what you need to know to make use of them.
When you’re a worker and get injured on the job, you’re forced to deal with a number of tricky questions. Who pays for your treatment? How long will you be forced to stay away from work? Will you be able to make back the pay that you lose?
Workers facing injuries in the workplace have different legal options to consider. It’s important to understand that while workers’ compensation is likely to be your first choice, you also have the option of putting in a personal injury claim.
How is workers’ compensation different from a personal injury claim?
Depending on whether you are talking about a personal injury negligence claim or a workers’ compensation claim for an injury in the workplace, you have different procedures, deadlines, and so on.
Fault and liability: The question of who is at fault for an injury is viewed differently depending on whether you are evaluating a personal injury negligence claim or a workers’ compensation claim. Workers’ compensation is a no-fault system. Your ability to claim benefits does not flow from your ability to prove that your employer or colleague was at fault. Suing an employer for an injury is only possible in a very narrow set of circumstances.
If you choose to make a personal injury claim for an injury that happens in the workplace, you need to determine that there are third parties that you can target with your lawsuit – the owner of the premises, the maker of a malfunctioning machine, a subcontractor’s employee, and so on.
Damages: The amount of compensation that you can recover can vary considerably depending on whether you apply for workers’ compensation, or file a personal injury lawsuit. Workers’ compensation can pay for your medical expenses, your lost wages, a disability that prevents you from working, and travel for medical care. In other words, it largely pays you for things that actually cost you money in the immediate present. Workers’ compensation doesn’t compensate you for pain and suffering that is difficult to quantify in terms of money. In a personal injury claim, on the other hand, you get to sue for pain and suffering and permanent injury.
The approach to take: When a worker is injured in the workplace, the employer needs to contact both their worker’s compensation insurance carrier and, in some cases, the North Carolina Industrial Commission, as well. The insurance carrier looks at each case and determines how much compensation the claimant is entitled to. If they turn down the claim, the injured worker is able to file an appeal. The worker may also be required to sit in on a mediation. A workers’ compensation lawyer is able to help injured workers navigate the appeals and mediation process.
In a personal injury case, on the other hand, the injured worker files a claim with the insurance company that underwrites the party who is thought to be at fault. The insurance company may offer the injured worker a settlement: in which case, the worker wouldn’t need to go to trial. If a settlement doesn’t come through, however, a personal injury attorney would need to take the worker’s case to trial.
The time that you have: Whether you go with a workers’ compensation claim or a personal injury claim, you need to pursue your course of choice within a set period of time. If you delay your application beyond the time specified, you lose your right to ask for compensation. When it comes to a workers’ compensation claim, the injured worker needs to notify the employer within 30 days of the injury, and file a claim within two years. In personal injury negligence claims, you typically need to file a lawsuit within three years. If a death is involved, the claim typically must be filed within two years.
Do you need to choose between one or the other path to take?
Putting in a workers’ compensation claim doesn’t take away your right to go with a personal injury claim, as well. It’s important to understand, however, that while most workers who sustain injuries at work are able to claim workers’ compensation, personal injury lawsuits tend to be an option for fewer people. Whichever way you may choose to go, it’s a good idea to begin action early on, and actively investigate your case as soon as possible to build a viable effort. Making both personal injury and workers’ compensation claims can help you maximize the compensation that you win.
Anyone who has been injured at work should speak to an experienced personal injury lawyer to understand what their options are. Not only is a lawyer likely to be able to ensure that a client is taken care of, but they are also able to make sure that they get a fair deal, as well.