What Is The Difference Between Workers’ Comp And Personal Injury?

doctor and patient

The workers’ compensation system and personal injury law are both ways of providing compensation to people for injuries. However, that is largely where their similarities end. These two systems have many differences between them. Here are some of the ways that personal injury and workers’ compensation laws are different.

Proving Fault in Your Case

When you file a workers’ compensation claim, it does not matter who was at fault for the accident that led to your injury. Unless you acted with willful misconduct, fault is a non-issue. Usually, the insurance provider will care about whether the accident was work-related as opposed to what you were doing to cause the accident. You can even get benefits if you were negligent yourself and caused your own injury. Workers’ compensation will focus more on the fact that you were injured on the job than what happened to cause the injury.

In a personal injury lawsuit, you will not be able to receive compensation unless you can prove that someone else was negligent. In these cases, it does matter what each person was doing at the time of the accident. Not only would you need to prove that someone else acted unreasonably under the circumstances, but you may be forced to defend your own actions. The defendant may argue that you were negligent yourself and pro-rate damages accordingly. While states vary, California is a true comparative negligence state. What that means is that the injured party can collect damages even if they are 99% at fault. Of course, in that situation, the injured party could only collect 1% of its damages.


There are wide differences between the compensation in a workers’ compensation claim and a personal injury lawsuit. The main difference is that in a personal injury lawsuit, the injured party is entitled to pain and suffering damages, whereas they are not in a worker’s compensation claim.

In short the Workers’ Compensation system is obligated to pay you part of your weekly wage, your medical expenses related to the treatment of your injury, the amount for your permanent disability, and for future medical treatment. In California, you can get ? of your pre-tax weekly ways for total disability, subject to a cap. There is a two-year limit on the lost wages portion of your claim.

Personal injury compensation is far more expensive. For example, in personal injury claims, the injured party can recover past and future medical treatment, loss of past and future earnings, loss of past and future family services without a cap.

Another major difference between the two is that workers’ compensation benefits will not pay you for pain and suffering. These damages can be a large part of your personal injury compensation because a jury or insurance company would assign an amount for your pain and suffering. Personal injury awards will also compensate you for other non-economic injuries, such as emotional distress and loss of enjoyment of life. While it is more difficult to win a personal injury case than it is to get workers’ compensation benefits, an injured party is entitled to more benefits from a personal injury claim.

Ability to File a Claim

When your injury occurs on the job or is work-related, subject to certain notice and statutory timelines, you always have the ability to file a workers’ compensation claim. This is your legal right as an employee. Your employer is legally required to maintain a workers’ compensation policy, which is there to protect you when you are injured at work.

The law has a tradeoff built into it that provides your employer with their own protection as well. In exchange for paying the money for a workers’ compensation policy, your employer is largely immune from personal injury lawsuits for a work-related injury. Unless certain very limited exceptions apply, you cannot sue your employer for injures.

You could only file a personal injury lawsuit if there was a third party responsible for your injuries. What that means is that another party is to be responsible for the injury that occurred while you were working. For example, if while driving on the job you were involved in a motor vehicle accident due to someone else’s negligence, or you were injured by a defective product, you could sue that third party who was to blame for your injury. Otherwise, you must file a workers’ compensation claim.

How You Get Your Medical Care

When your compensation comes from a personal injury case, there are no limitations on how you can receive medical care. You are able to choose your own doctor. So long as you follow the doctor’s recommendations and diligently pursue your medical care, you have relative freedom to make your own choices.

In workers’ compensation claims, your employer has the ability to direct you to see a doctor from their list of approved providers. If the employer directs you to a physician, the limitation is that the approved provider must not be too far from your home or inconvenient for you. Furthermore, the authorization for treatment and procedures have to first be approved by what is known as utilization review.

Contact a Southern California Workers’ Comp Lawyer Today

The above are general statements about both systems based on California Law, there are a lot of details that will vary case by case. If you have been injured on the job, The Arshakyan Firm can help you obtain compensation, either through the workers’ comp or the personal injury system. We will evaluate your situation to help you figure out the most effective option. Reach out to us online or call us today at (888) 851-5005] to discuss your legal matter. The consultation is free, and you pay us nothing unless you win.