I missed the deadline for filing a workers’ compensation claim. Can I just file a personal injury lawsuit instead?

If you’ve been injured in a work-related accident, you might be wondering if it would be easier simply to file a personal injury lawsuit to cover your expenses. Unfortunately, workers’ compensation is a program that’s entirely separate from personal injury law. You can normally only receive benefits from one type of claim at a time.

Differences in Standards of Fault

The biggest difference between workers’ compensation claims and personal injury suits is the standard of fault applied.

In a personal injury case, you must establish that another party is responsible for your injuries. For example, if you were in a car accident, you’d need to prove that the other driver was speeding, tailgating, or otherwise driving in an unsafe manner that caused you to be injured.

In a workers’ compensation case, there is no requirement to prove fault. You can receive benefits even if your own inexperience or inattention caused your injuries. As long as you weren’t engaged in horseplay or under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time, the only requirement is that you must have been injured while on the job.

Differences in Standards for Damages

Another important difference between workers’ compensation and personal injury claims involves the type of damages you’re able to receive.

A personal injury claim can include damages for medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering. Since pain and suffering is often calculated as a multiplier of verifiable medical expenses, compensation can be substantial in cases involving serious injury.

A workers’ compensation case allows you to receive medical treatment from an approved provider, weekly income benefits, and compensation for permanent injury. You are not compensated for your pain and suffering, even if your injuries result in a lifelong disability.

Differences in Processing Time

In most cases, workers’ compensation claims will be settled in a more timely fashion than a personal injury suit. Workers with a cooperative employer and fairly straightforward cases often begin receiving benefits within days. In comparison, even a relatively simple personal injury case requires the assistance of an attorney for ensuring a fair settlement.

Differences in Litigation Outcomes

Since workers’ compensation cases don’t require you to establish negligence, it’s generally easier to win a workers’ compensation case at trial. However, in both workers’ compensation and personal injury claims, it’s advantageous for most cases to be settled out of court.

You Generally Can’t Pick and Choose

Unfortunately, there is normally no option to pick which type of legal action you wish to pursue. If you were hurt on the job, workers’ compensation is your exclusive remedy. You can’t opt to forgo workers’ comp benefits and initiate a personal injury suit against your employer or any coworkers who played a role in the accident that caused your injuries.

Exceptions to this rule include:

  • If you have been injured in a work-related car accident caused by a driver who does not work for your employer, you can seek both workers’ compensation and personal injury benefits. However, your employer will have a lien for benefits paid out on your workers' compensation claim on any personal injury settlement you receive.
     
  • When your injuries are due to a defect in equipment used at your place of employment, you may be able to sue the manufacturer for damages. However, just as with a work-related motor vehicle accident, your employer will have a lien on any personal injury settlement you receive.

Protecting Your Right to Compensation

If you’re having trouble accessing your workers’ compensation benefits, seeking legal representation ensures that your case proceeds in a timely fashion. Rechtman & Spevak’s attorneys are dedicated to helping injured Georgia workers receive the compensation they need to move forward with their lives. Call today to schedule a free, no-obligation initial case review.