“Where there’s blame, there’s a claim.”
But did you know that not every claim requires blame?
Workers’ compensation claims have nothing to do with fault. With very limited exceptions, if you’re an employee injured on the job, meaning that you were at work or performing work-related activities when you got injured, then you’re entitled to workers’ compensation benefits.
You don’t need to prove that anyone caused the accident or that someone should have been more careful to prevent it. In reality, it might have even been your carelessness that caused the injury.
So, if your accident happened at work, then you’re entitled to workers’ compensation benefits.
But Is There a Catch?
You should be aware that there are two trade-offs if you file for workers’ comp.
First, there’s the type of benefits you will receive. In workers’ compensation, you’ll be entitled to payments for weekly compensation, medical bills, permanent impairment benefits, and vocational rehabilitation. You won’t be able to claim pain and suffering or future lost earnings like you could if you filed a personal injury lawsuit.
Additionally, people will ask you questions and require you to provide documentation, but you won’t have to go to court to prove your claim. In fact, you can’t sue your employer. That’s the other trade-off.
In exchange for guaranteed benefits because employers are legally required to purchase workers’ compensation insurance, you cannot sue your employer for damages relating to the at-work injury—that is, unless you’re either a crewmember on a ship or an interstate railroad worker. Both of these types of workers must sue their employers if they get hurt on the job.
There is one last exception for injuries that your employer caused. You can still sue your employer if their intentional acts caused your injuries. But this doesn’t happen very often.
How Does Workers’ Compensation Differ From a Personal Injury Claim?
Personal injury lawsuits sue a specific person or party for their negligence in causing your injuries, pain, and suffering. You can file a claim to try to recover a wide range of damages, such as pain and suffering, lost earnings, lost earning capacity, medical bills, future medical expenses, permanent impairment, and other damages.
A personal injury case is far from certain, however. You’ll have to prove that the other party did not exercise enough care and caution and that this caused your injuries. Sometimes you’ll be able to settle the case, but other times, you’ll have to try the case in a courtroom.
Do You Have to Choose Either a Personal Injury Lawsuit or Workers’ Comp?
In most cases, you do have to choose one or the other. If you get hurt during the course of your employment, you can only recover workers’ compensation benefits. Your only choice is to file a claim with the workers’ compensation system to recover the damages available under the insurance program.
There is one exception, however. If you were hurt at work because of the carelessness and negligence of a third party, then you can pursue a personal injury claim against that third party. This might be a manufacturer, contractor, or a customer who acts in a way to cause you harm.
So, What Should You Do?
Don’t wing it. Don’t try to figure it out on your own. If you have questions or concerns about your injuries and suspect that someone else is to blame, contacting an experienced attorney is your best course of action.
At Hunter & Everage, we can advise you through the process and determine your best options for obtaining as much compensation as possible. We have experienced lawyers in Richmond, Virginia, and Charlotte, North Carolina, who are ready to help you make the right decision for your situation.