Going about your business one minute only to find yourself in a terrible accident the next is a scary, painful, and daunting experience. In the immediate aftermath of such an accident, the only thing that is likely on your mind is the healing process. As time passes, however, you may wonder what legal options you have available to you assuming the accident that occurred was not due to actions of your own.
In this situation, people tend to file a worker’s compensation claim or a personal injury lawsuit. While these two terms are often used interchangeably, they are not the same by any means. Learn the difference between these two in order to determine if one or either is the best choice for you to pursue following an accident.
What Qualifies as a Workplace Accident?
As defined by OSHA, the definition of a workplace or work-relatedness accident refers to any injury that an employee of an organization suffers in a work environment that is caused by the exposure to something within that environment. A work environment is categorized not only as the physical location of a workplace, but also any equipment, items, or alternative locations that are used by employees as a normal part of their duties.
What is a Personal Injury?
Personal injury refers to any injury a person has suffered as a result of negligent actions on behalf of somebody else and can occur in nearly any circumstance. Personal injury cases can happen anywhere at any time, making them arguably more common than workplace accidents. Common examples of personal injury include:
- Medical malpractice on behalf of a doctor
- A driver colliding with a pedestrian who had the right of way
- Animal attacks from an animal that got off leash
- Slip and fall accidents inside a building
There are a number of different types of personal injury cases, with the above only representing the tip of the iceberg for what a potential case may look like.
What is the Primary Difference Between a Workplace Accident and Personal Injury?
The biggest differences between a workplace accident and personal injury is that a workplace accident occurs within the work environment. Additionally, a workplace accident is covered by worker’s compensation insurance in most cases and does not require proving negligence in most situations. For a more specific breakdown, the below descriptions outline some of the finer differences:
Workers Compensation Insurance
As mentioned, and as indicative by the name, workers compensation insurance is different than a lawsuit. It is a form of insurance paid for by the employer as opposed to the employee which covers a range of potential injuries. There are four primary categories for workers compensation insurance, each of which containing smaller subsets. These four include:
- Only medical workers compensation insurance: This form of worker’s compensation only covers medical bills resulting from a workplace accident. There is typically an additional payment of three to seven days for a waiting period that occurs before this form of insurance kicks in.
- Temporary disability workers compensation insurance: This second form of worker’s compensation insurance occurs when a person has suffered such as injury that they cannot return to work for a certain period of time. It will cover the lost pay that they endure as a result until they are able to return to work.
- Permanent disability workers compensation insurance: This third form of workers compensation insurance refers to the above, but when the disability is permanent. Benefit payments will occur until death or at a later time in which the person in question is somehow capable of working in the same capacity.
- Fatalities: Finally, the gravest coverage of worker’s compensation is fatality coverage. Should you die as a result of the accident, this form of coverage will help to ensure your loved ones receive compensation as a result to be used for funeral expenses or other needs.
Personal Injury Lawsuit
Unlike worker’s compensation, a personal injury lawsuit occurs in a court of law and is a formal civil case. There is a plaintiff and defendant, with the former being the injured party and the latter being the person or group accused of causing the injury.
To win this case, a person must prove that the defendant had a duty of care to not harm them, violated that duty of care which caused their injuries, and then they must prove that the compensation they are seeking is justified based on those injuries. If all of the above is proven, the judge or jury will order the defendant to make the plaintiff whole by meeting some or all of the compensation claim.
Can You File for Both Personal Injury and Workers Compensation?
Oftentimes, when consulting with a workplace accident lawyer, people tend to wonder whether or not they can file for both personal injury and workers compensation. The answer is technically yes and no. When you file a worker’s compensation insurance claim, you are forfeiting the right to file a personal injury lawsuit against the company.
However, you could file for worker’s compensating against your organization and a personal injury lawsuit against a third party. A common example would be if you were driving a truck for work and another driver broadsided you after breaking the rules of the road. In this situation, you may be eligible for both workers compensation and compensation from a personal injury case. If you are unsure what you situations warrants, reach out to an accredited lawyer in your area.
Keep yourself physically and legally protected
In the event of an accident, you should focus your attention on healing from your injuries so that you can get back to doing what you love, regardless of what that may be. However, this doesn’t mean you need to accept the fact that the negligent actions of another person or organization were responsible for that accident.
Work with a lawyer to determine if you have a personal injury lawsuit on your hands or consider filing for worker’s compensation if your specific situation applies.