Understanding the Difference Between Workers’ Compensation and Personal Injury

Posted on August 05, 2020

When injured because of another person’s negligence, damages may be recovered through a workers’ compensation claim or a personal injury lawsuit. Unlike a personal injury lawsuit, a workers’ comp claim does not require proof of fault.

Workers Compensation vs. Personal Injury

When injuries occur in the workplace, the injured party is entitled to file a claim to recover the cost of medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering caused by the injury. However, it may be difficult to know whether it’s best to file a workers’ compensation claim with the employer or a personal injury lawsuit with a work injury lawyer. To choose the best course of action, the injured party should first understand the difference between the two options.

The biggest difference between a workers’ comp claim and a personal injury lawsuit is that a workers’ comp claim does not require proof of fault for the accident to receive benefits. Workers’ compensation claims cover work-related injuries only and claims are covered by state insurance laws and funds. A personal injury claim is filed through an injury attorney in a court of law. Injuries may be work-related or caused by other types of accidents such as car crashes, slip and falls, and medical errors. Personal injury cases always require proof of fault to determine a verdict.

When work-related injuries occur, it’s important to understand the differences between a workers’ compensation claim and a personal injury claim, because they are based on different factors that will impact the outcome for the injury victim. Some main differences between workers comp claims and personal injury lawsuits include:

Determining Fault

When an accident occurs, someone is at fault or liable for the accident and related injuries. If the injury is the result of another person’s negligence, the injury victim is entitled to compensation. While determining fault is not required in a workers’ comp claim, it must be determined and proven in a court of law by a work injury lawyer when an injury victim files a personal injury lawsuit.

Collecting Damages

Workers’ compensation usually covers very specific work-related injuries or conditions as defined under state law. Workers’ comp benefits cover the costs of medical bills, lost wages, and rehabilitation needed to resume work, but they do not cover any costs for pain and suffering. Once a claim is approved, workers’ comp benefits are usually paid in a timely manner, either in weekly or bi-weekly payments.

Personal injury claims usually cover a wide range of injuries that may be work-related or caused by personal accidents or trauma. If a plaintiff wins a lawsuit, he/she may recover damages for medical expenses, future medical expenses, lost wages and earning, future lost wages and earnings, pain and suffering, and loss of enjoyment of life. In personal injury cases, damages are usually paid in lump sum payments or settlement arrangements. However, it may take months, even years, to collect for damages because the case must be finalized in a court of law and fault must be proven to receive financial awards.

Right to Sue

Once an injured worker files a workers compensation claim, he/she cannot file a personal injury lawsuit against the employer. In most cases, a worker forfeits the right to sue if collecting workers comp benefits for that particular injury. In Illinois, employers are required by law to provide workers compensation insurance to employees. If the employee accepts coverage, he/she is prohibited from filing a personal injury lawsuit against the employer.

In some cases, work-related injuries are caused by a third party unrelated to the employee’s job. If this occurs, the injured employee may file a separate personal injury lawsuit with a work injury lawyer against the third party, even while collecting workers’ compensation benefits from his/her employer.

Filing Claims and Lawsuits

Workers Compensation Claims

Workers’ compensation claims are filed by employers with state agencies that handle claims. If injured in the workplace, an employee must report his/her injury to his/her employer as soon as possible. The employer will review the injury report and file a workers’ comp claim on the employee’s behalf. The employer must file the claim in a timely manner, usually within 30-60 days from the date of the accident.

Once the claim is approved, the employer and employee will be notified by the state agency, and the employee will receive workers comp benefits by check or direct deposit. If the claim is denied, the employee should consult a work injury lawyer who can file an appeal with proper paperwork.

Personal Injury Lawsuits

Personal injury lawsuits are filed through a work injury lawyer. The court imposes a statute of limitations on all personal injury claims. In Illinois, a personal injury lawsuit must be filed within two years of the date of injury. Claims filed after the two-year deadline will likely be dismissed by the court.