Personal Injury Cases Vs. Workers’ Compensation Claims

pi vs workers comp

If you have been injured on the job, you are likely looking to obtain compensation for your injury that can help support your family until you can work again. There are two ways that you may be able to obtain compensation for a workplace accident:

  • Filing a workers’ compensation claim
  • Filing a lawsuit against a responsible party

It Is Very, Very Difficult to Sue Your Employer in a Personal Injury Case

At the outset, we need to make it plainly clear that you can almost never sue your employer in a negligence-based personal injury lawsuit. Your employer pays premiums to provide you with workers’ compensation coverage, and it is something that they are required to do under California law. Simply stated, you would need to find someone else to sue.

The tradeoff is that your employer is largely protected from being sued in personal injury lawsuits. There are very few exceptions to the rule that you cannot sue your employer for personal injury. The employer would need to willfully injure you or fraudulently conceal what caused your injury. Otherwise, the employer cannot be sued, so long as they actually have provided workers’ compensation insurance.

You Can File a Third-Party Lawsuit for Negligence

However, you can still file a personal injury lawsuit for job-related injuries under some circumstances. Essentially, you would need to find a third party, other than your employer, who was negligent. In that case, you would file a lawsuit directly against them for your personal injury.

Here are some potential third parties that you can sue in a personal injury lawsuit:

  • A driver, if you were injured in an on-the-job traffic accident – you may be able to sue either the driver personally or the company that employs them if they were on the job at the time of the accident
  • The manufacturer of a work tool or piece of equipment that malfunctioned and injured you (this would be a product liability lawsuit that alleges a defect)
  • A third party or subcontractor who was also present at the worksite whose employee injured you
  • A business owner, if you were injured in an accident off the premises of your own workplace (such as a slip and fall)

You Need to Prove Fault in a Personal Injury Case

If you file a lawsuit against a third party, you would still need to prove that they were negligent in order to receive financial compensation. If you were to blame for the injury, you could not file a personal injury lawsuit. However, you do not need to prove fault in a workers’ compensation claim. Even if you were to blame, you could still receive benefits for your injury so long as you were on the job at the time of the injury.

You Can Get More Money in a Personal Injury Case

At this point, you may be wondering why you would want to sue rather than bring a workers’ compensation claim for a work-related accident. The simple answer is that you can typically recover more compensation through a personal injury claim.

A workers’ compensation claim will cover the medical expenses related to your injury and a portion of your earnings up to a statutory cap. These are what would be known as economic damages in a personal injury lawsuit. You would not be entitled to indefinite benefits, and you would make less than you would if you won a personal injury lawsuit. However, workers’ compensation benefits still serve a valuable role while you recover from your injury.

There is a second category of damages in a personal injury case called non-economic damages. These damages compensate you for your own unique experience after your injury. Non-economic damages include things like pain and suffering and emotional distress. These damages are not covered by a workers’ compensation claim. Pain and suffering can greatly increase the size of your financial recovery. The presence of non-economic damages makes it worth your while to turn over every stone to try to find a responsible third party.

In addition, the lost wages portion of your damages is not limited to a personal injury lawsuit. You would receive your full lost wages, and there is no cap on them, unlike a workers’ compensation claim, where you would get two-thirds of your wage.

You Should Still Consider a Workers’ Compensation Claim

Even if you file a personal injury lawsuit, you should still file a workers’ compensation claim right after your accident because you have still suffered a work-related injury. If you get a settlement or jury award from your personal injury case, you would need to reimburse the workers’ compensation insurance carrier, so you should make sure to account for that in your settlement. If you do not file a workers’ compensation claim in time, you run the risk of getting nothing if you do not win your lawsuit. Filing a workers’ compensation claim does not prevent you from filing a negligence-based lawsuit against a third party. In a sense, it hedges your risks.

Your attorney will get to work as soon as you hire them. With a workplace injury, the key is a quick yet thorough investigation of the facts to determine the cause of the injury and which parties may be responsible for the injuries. You may need to proceed down both the personal injury and workers’ compensation tracks at the same time while you pursue compensation. Your attorney should advise you of the best legal path forward to financial compensation.

Call a Los Angeles Personal Injury Lawyer Today

The Arshakyan Law Firm can work with you after you have been injured on the job. We can help you determine whether you have a possible personal injury lawsuit. Our attorneys will also help with complex workers’ compensation claims. We work across multiple disciplines of the law to provide you with the most effective legal representation. To schedule your free initial consultation, you can send us a message online or call us at (888) 851-5005.