Workplace accidents tend to be stressful, traumatizing experiences. As an injured worker, you’re left wondering how you’ll manage to cover any necessary medical treatments, mounting bills and expenses, and the costs of providing for yourself or your family. Fortunately, when you are injured at work through no fault of your own, you likely have a few options for securing fair compensation after your accident.
In today’s article, we discuss the differences between workers’ compensation claims and personal injury lawsuits in the state of California. In the aftermath of a workplace accident, it can be challenging to figure out which course of action you should pursue to receive acceptable compensation for your injury. While you should absolutely meet with an attorney to discuss the specific details of your case, it can be helpful to understand the basics of these two types of claims before speaking with a lawyer.
What is a Personal Injury Claim?
Personal injury lawsuits arise when a person suffers harm through the careless or negligent actions of another person or party. If the other party is found responsible for the victim’s injuries and damages incurred, their insurance company will be responsible for compensating the injured person financially. A personal injury case is formalized by an attorney representing the victim’s interests at a civil court proceeding. The injury attorneys at Rose, Klein & Marias LLP note that such disputes may be settled in one of two ways:
- Through a formal lawsuit: A formal personal injury case begins when a private individual files a civil complaint against another individual, group, or entity. From there, the burden is on the victim’s lawyer to prove that their client suffered harm due to the defendant’s negligence.
- Through an informal settlement: A significant portion of personal injury claims are resolved relatively quickly through a settlement offer. Settlements commonly take the form of negotiation between each party’s attorneys and insurance company representatives. Following negotiations, both parties agree to forego additional action and resolve the situation through an acceptable amount of money.
What is a Workers’ Compensation Claim?
Workers’ compensation is an insurance policy designed to protect workers and their employers if an employee is injured. By filing a workers’ compensation claim, an injured worker can recover benefits to cover some of their expenses, from medical treatment to wages lost while they are out of the workforce. It is beneficial for a business to offer comprehensive workers’ compensation coverage, as doing so protects the employer from paying considerable damages out of pocket. Most California employers are also required to carry workers’ compensation insurance that covers their employees.
As an injured worker, you may file for workers’ compensation if you suffer an illness or injury that occurs as you carry out your duties. Workplace accidents, animal attacks, exposure to deadly chemicals, and illnesses caused by poor workplace sanitation are some examples of injuries typically covered under workers’ compensation. Some on-the-job injuries may not be covered under workers’ compensation plans in California, including:
- Accidents occurring during an employee’s commute
- Injuries resulting from activities against company policies
- Self-inflicted harm
- Psychiatric conditions
Do You Need to Demonstrate Fault in Both Types of Claims?
A personal injury claim is based on fault, but a workers’ compensation claim is not. If you are attempting to recover damages incurred because of a motor vehicle accident, product liability incident, slip and fall, or another type of negligence-caused situation, you need to prove that another party was liable for your injuries. You do not need to prove that another party’s negligence caused your injuries if you file a workers’ compensation claim.
What Damages Are Available?
In a personal injury claim, you receive compensation for any damages you suffered because of your injury. You may be able to successfully recover damages for loss of earning capacity, current and future medical expenses, permanent impairment, and pain in suffering. In some cases, a personal injury lawsuit will also result in punitive damages being awarded. This type of damage is awarded not to compensate the victim, but rather to punish the defendant for gross negligence that resulted in injury.
Workers’ compensation is designed specifically to compensate an injured employee for the damages they suffered due to their workplace accident. You will not be able to secure compensation for pain and suffering through a workers’ compensation case. Rather, you may be able to recover weekly earnings, permanent impairment benefits, and coverage of medical expenses or rehabilitation treatments.
Should You File a Workers’ Compensation Claim or Personal Injury Lawsuit?
Now that you understand the basic elements of workers’ compensation and personal injury claims in California, you may be wondering which of the two options best fits your needs. Since every legal situation is unique, it is in your best interests to speak with a local attorney familiar with California’s personal injury and workers’ compensation rules and regulations. They will be able to advise you as to which course of option best fits your case and gives you the greatest chance of securing fair compensation.