It isn’t surprising that some people can be confused by personal injury claims and how they compare to workers’ compensation claims. At first glance, they can seem similar, as both involve injuries and can result in compensation paid to accident victims.
The most substantial difference may be that personal injury cases involve assigning fault for an accident. Successful workers’ compensation claims do not assign blame and recognize that workplace accidents are unfortunate incidents rather than due to any acts of negligence on the employer’s part. These facts have a significant impact on how each case is adjudicated in court and the type of lawyer you need.
Workers’ Compensation vs Personal Injury
It is important to understand that a workers’ compensation claim is not a lawsuit and is significantly different from a personal injury action. Oftentimes, those seeking workers’ compensation claims worry that they will harm their work relationship, or will experience repercussions for filing a claim involving their employer.
However, unlike personal injury actions, workers’ compensation is not a lawsuit. Furthermore, employers are prohibited to retaliate against employees for filing workers’ compensation claims. Therefore, workers’ compensation claims are not adversarial toward employers.
Workers’ Compensation Claim
In New York State, if you are injured (or develop an occupational disease) while working, you are entitled by law to a workers’ compensation claim. Workers’ compensation is a “no-fault” system, meaning you do not have to prove that your employer was negligent as part of your claim. Workers’ compensation will cover medical treatment and a portion of lost wages. The workers’ compensation bills and benefits are paid by your employer’s workers’ compensation insurance. By filing a workers’ compensation claim, you are not suing your employer. In fact, due to the New York State Workers’ Compensation Law, you cannot directly sue your employer for an on-the-job injury. Workers’ compensation benefits are limited to medical costs and lost wages. They do not include payment for factors like pain, suffering, and emotional distress. Workers’ compensation is governed by administrative law and involves hearings with the New York State Workers’ Compensation Board.
Personal Injury Action
As noted above, you cannot sue your employer directly for a work-related accident. Sometimes, however, there is a third party involved. For example, if your job requires you to visit independently owned locations, and you slip and fall at a location that is not owned by your employer, you may have a claim against that third party.
If you drive a motor vehicle as part of your job and end up in an accident, you may be able to sue the other driver. A third-party claim would be a personal injury action, which is a lawsuit. In order to file a lawsuit you would need to claim and prove the third party was negligent. Personal injury action can help recover damages for pain, suffering, emotional distress and other items not covered by workers’ compensation. Personal injury actions are handled in the New York State Courts and are the type of actions that may result in a trial before a judge and jury.
Given the difference between workers’ compensation and personal injury, it is always a good idea to talk to a lawyer if you get hurt at work. Different types of claims require different types of investigation, have different filing deadlines and involve lien issues between the multiple insurance companies involved. The attorneys at Lewis & Lewis can answer your questions about both workers’ compensation and personal injury actions.