Discover the similarities and differences between workers’ comp and a personal injury
Some people mistakenly believe that personal injury claims and workers’ compensation claims are one and the same. However, there are a few key differences between these 2 types of cases. Understanding the differences between workers’ comp and personal injuries helps employees make an informed decision.
Here are a few of the biggest distinctions between workers’ compensation and personal injury.
Determining fault after a workplace accident
Personal injury claims are filed when the accident occurred secondary to the action or inaction of another person. When the lawsuit goes to court, the prosecution must prove that the accident and subsequent injuries occurred due to negligence.
Employees suffering an injury at work may file a personal injury lawsuit if:
- The accident involved defective equipment or a defective product. In this instance, a claim might be filed against the manufacturer, unless the malfunction occurred secondary to neglected maintenance.
- The employer intentionally acted or their inaction would obviously lead to potential harm or fatality.
- The injury occurred due to an employee, supervisor or employer being under the influence of an illegal or toxic substance, which led to the accident.
- The injury occurred during work hours but was caused by the negligence of an individual not employed by the company. The third party is then held responsible.
- The employer did not cover employees by workers’ compensation due to personal choice or because they are not legally required to do so.
However, in the majority of cases, an employee suffering a personal injury at work remains entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. A workers’ comp claim does not depend on fault to render benefits. The injured employee, a coworker or employer may have acted inappropriately to cause the accident, but negligence does not prevent the injured party from receiving assistance.
Statute of limitations (time limits)
If an injured employee and their attorney decide that a personal injury claim is the best means of obtaining compensation, the claim must be filed within 2 years from the date the injury occurred. If the injury did not manifest immediately, the employee has 1 year from the time of discovery to file a claim.
To qualify for workers’ compensation in Arizona, the employee must file a claim within 1 year from the date of the accident.
Types of recoverable damages
Personal injury claims and workers’ compensation claims also differ in that an employee can’t receive benefits for pain and suffering using workers’ compensation. The insurance provided by the employer entitles the employee to weekly compensation, permanent disability benefits, medical expenses and vocational rehabilitation. The payments are based on the employee’s wages at the time of the accident and continue depending on the severity of the injury. Workers’ compensation commonly pays an afflicted employee within a shorter period of time compared to lawsuits.
In the event of a personal injury lawsuit, the employee may not receive benefits for months or years, depending on the time needed to prove negligence and finalize the case. But damages awarded to an employee often include current and future lost wages or earnings, current and future medical expenses, compensation for pain and suffering along with deprivation of a joyful life. Thus, the employee may receive more compensation in the end, if their claim is successful.
In the event that the accident and injuries occurred due to the negligence of a third party not employed by the company, the affected employee may then file claims for workers’ compensation and file a personal injury claim against the negligent party. The circumstance is referred to as a combination case. But the prosecution must still prove negligence under a personal injury claim.
When it comes to personal injury, all people in Arizona are owed a duty of care and therefore can file a civil lawsuit if they were injured due to the negligence of another. However, not everyone is entitled to workers’ compensation.
Certain classes of employees may not be eligible for workers’ compensation in Arizona, such as:
- Crew members of boats or ships
- Domestic workers
- Independent contractors
- Real estate agents
- Volunteer workers
- Temporary motion picture employees
- Railroad workers
Crew members of water-going vessels and interstate railroad employees do not qualify for workers’ compensation as their work environments extend beyond the boundaries of the country or a single state.
Injured crew members of any size boat or ship are covered by the Federal Jones Act, which enables the injured employee to sue their employer in an effort to gain benefits for lost wages, medical expenses, pain and suffering.
Interstate railroad workers may sue their employer under the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA). In order to receive compensation, injured employees in other categories may file a personal injury lawsuit against the negligent employer or company.
Questions and answers about compensation for a job-related accident, injury or illness in Arizona
Consult an Arizona workers’ compensation attorney
As you can see, there are many factors that must be considered when deciding what type of claim to file. By consulting with an attorney experienced in personal injury and workers’ compensation cases, injured employees and their families can receive professional guidance from someone having knowledge of the complexities involved.
Don’t hesitate to reach out to the Law Offices of Robert E. Wisniewski today. We will fight for your rights and help you make the best decision to get the maximum compensation you deserve.