When someone suffers an on-the-job injury, they often wonder what legal remedy is best to get reimbursed for the losses caused by the injury. The most likely options would be a workers’ compensation claim or a personal injury lawsuit. But these are two entirely separate legal avenues that have different sets of rules.
What are the Differences Between Workers’ Compensation and Personal Injury Claims?
A large number of workplace injuries fall under the exclusive purview of the workers’ compensation system. Workers’ comp is a no-fault program that provides benefits for workers who suffer job-related injuries or illnesses, regardless of who or what caused the injury. There are some exceptions to this rule, but generally, the injured worker can recover workers’ comp benefits as long as they can show that the injury was work-related.
Workers’ compensation claimants can recover benefits to compensate them for most of the direct monetary losses they sustain because of their injuries, including:
- Reasonable and necessary medical expenses.
- A percentage of lost earnings.
- Rehabilitation and retraining costs.
- Benefits for a permanent disability.
In some workplace injury cases, it is possible to file a personal injury lawsuit. When this option is available, the injured worker may be able to recover significantly more compensation than through a workers’ comp claim. Workers’ compensation only reimburses for economic losses that the worker suffers because of their injury, but it does not provide any coverage for noneconomic losses that are real but more difficult to quantify.
Through a personal injury claim, the worker can recover compensation for intangible losses such as:
- Physical pain-and-suffering.
- Emotional and psychological distress.
- Loss of enjoyment/diminished quality of life.
Although you can recover more compensation through a personal injury action, you will also need to show negligence on the part of the responsible party in order to be successful with this type of claim. This means investigating the circumstances that led to the injury and compiling the evidence necessary to fully substantiate the claim.
Personal injury claims in the workplace can often be very complicated cases, and because of the high burden of proof required to succeed, it is always recommended that injured workers retain an experienced attorney to represent them. This puts them in the best possible position to recover the full and fair compensation they deserve.
Can I File a Worker’s Compensation and Personal Injury Claim Simultaneously if I Get Hurt at Work?
The short answer to this question is, “sometimes”. But as with most situations, a definitive answer can only be given after assessing the specific factors related to your case.
One thing you are not generally allowed to do in Alabama is file both a workers’ compensation claim and a personal injury claim against an employer. Injured workers are usually prohibited from suing an Alabama employer who has workers’ comp coverage, so this would most likely not be an option.
That said, there are many instances in which a party other than the employer could be responsible for a workplace accident. When this is the case, you may be able to file a claim for benefits through your employer’s workers’ comp insurer while at the same time pursuing a personal injury action against the outside party that caused the accident.
Some common examples of third parties that could be at fault for a workplace accident include:
- Subcontractors that are brought in to perform various tasks at a work site (this is especially common in the construction industry).
- Other vehicle drivers who cause an accident with a worker who is transporting materials or making a delivery while on the job.
- Manufacturers, suppliers, and distributors whose faulty or dangerous product causes a workplace accident.
It is very important to note that in cases when an injured worker files a workers’ compensation claim and personal injury lawsuit at the same time, they will not end up collecting double compensation for the same losses.
In a case like this, the workers’ comp insurer might place a lien on damages awarded through the personal injury claim in order to get reimbursed for the benefits that they have paid out. Or the insurer might also end up filing a lawsuit themselves against the outside party that was responsible for the accident. How your case plays out will depend on your specific circumstances, but the point is that you should not expect to receive double the compensation if you are involved in both a personal injury and workers’ comp claim.
Suffered a Workplace Injury in Alabama? Contact Hedge Copeland for Assistance
If you or someone close to you got injured in a workplace accident, it is very important to speak with a skilled and knowledgeable attorney as soon as possible to review your case and find out what your legal rights and options are. If the injury occurred in Alabama, Hedge Copeland is ready to go to work for you. To get started, message us online or call our office today at (251) 432-8844 for a free consultation and case assessment.