The Differences Between Workers Compensation And Personal Injury Claims

No one wants to be in an accident whether at work or away from work, but sometimes it does happen. If you sustain an injury, there are many things to consider regarding your financial and physical recovery. How do you cover the losses and damages you’ve incurred from the injury? How will you continue to pay your bills while you recover?

We commonly see confusion in whether compensation for an injury should be pursued through a workers’ compensation claim or a personal injury claim. Although there are some similarities between the types of claims, there are some important distinctions that we cover in this post.

What Is Workers’ Compensation?

Workers’ compensation is a mandatory insurance program for employers and employees. A workers’ comp insurance policy ensures that employees get compensation for injuries they incur in the course of their employment, while employers get protection from civil lawsuits. A nice aspect of the program is that employees can claim the payment regardless of who or what caused the accident.

What Is A Personal Injury Lawsuit?

A personal injury lawsuit is a legal dispute that arises when one person suffers harm from an injury or accident, and someone else is legally responsible for that injury. The insurance company of the person liable for the given injury will often pay the injured party’s medical, pain and suffering, and other ongoing expenses. That said, you’ll have to prove that the accused party’s negligence led to you incurring the injuries.  Most of the time in North Carolina, if you are injured on the job, your only recourse against your employer is through the Workers’ Compensation system.  Third-Parties who might be at fault, however, can be pursued in civil court.

Differentiating Between Workers’ Comp And A Personal Injury Lawsuit

Below are some of the differences between a workers’ compensation claim and a personal injury lawsuit:

Determining Fault

To better understand the concept of fault in a personal injury claim, you need to consider a typical slip-and-fall case. Just because you slipped and fell on someone’s property doesn’t mean that the owner of that property is negligent for the injury that you suffered; keep in mind that it’s not unheard of for accidents to happen where no one is at fault. 

For you to recover the damages for slipping on someone’s property, you have to prove that the owner of the property negligently maintained the property. In a nutshell, you have to demonstrate that the property owner did something wrong that led to your injury.

In the case of a workers’ comp case, anyone injured by accident while undertaking their duties on the job is entitled to a workers’ compensation benefit. You don’t need to prove that your co-worker’s or employer’s negligence led to you incurring the injury to receive workers’ compensation benefits. Moreover, even if your negligence caused the injury, you are still entitled to getting a workers’ comp benefit, unlike in the case of a personal injury claim.

Damages For Pain And Suffering

Personal injury lawsuits entitle you to recover the damages that you have suffered from a given injury. Such damages include medical bills, lost earnings, permanent impairment, future medical expenses, loss of enjoyment, and pain and suffering, among other things. 

In the case of a workers’ comp claim, the injured party is not entitled to receiving any amount for pain and suffering. Additionally, some workers’ compensation awards are paid periodically, whereas personal injury damages are paid in a lump sum.

Right To Sue

Generally, a worker who is sickened or injured on the job does not have the right to file a lawsuit against their employer. More often than not, workers have the legal obligation to turn to the worker’s compensation system in the state in which they work for compensation.

Are North Carolina Employers Required To Purchase Workers’ Comp Coverage?

Yes. The North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Act requires that all businesses that employ three or more employees, including those operating as corporations, sole proprietorships, limited liability companies and partnerships, obtain workers’ compensation insurance or qualify as self-insured employers for purposes of paying workers’ compensation benefits to their employees.

Although there are a few exceptions to this rule, almost all North Carolina employers are required to have workers’ compensation coverage. An employer’s failure to provide this coverage can result in fines, criminal charges, or in extreme cases, even imprisonment.

What Damages Can Be Recovered?

Employees can recover medical bills and lost wages in a worker’s comp case. Suppose a worker dies while they are on the job, their family will receive the death benefits. 

One major factor that differentiates a worker’s compensation claim and a personal injury claim is that, in the former, employees are not entitled to punitive damages or pain & suffering damages. In the case of a personal injury claim, the aggrieved party is to recover all the damages that they incurred, including pain and suffering.

Can You File A Personal Injury Claim AND A Workers’ Compensation Lawsuit?

Generally, if an employee becomes ill or sustains an injury that is connected with their employment, they must turn to the worker’s compensation system in the state in which they live for compensation. They would not be able to file a personal injury claim against their co-worker or employer.

Nonetheless, let’s assume there is a third party involved in the injury or accident, in this case then the employee may file a separate personal injury lawsuit against the third party whose negligence was the direct cause of their injury.

Issues To Consider When Choosing Legal Options

Here is an outline of some questions to consider if you have experienced illness or injury in connection with your employment:

  • Who was responsible for causing the injury?
  • Was the injury the result of an accident related to the tasks you do for your job?

Consult A North Carolina Employment Lawyer

If you’ve been injured, whether on the job or not, it’s important to have the right representation on your side. Green Mistretta Law will fight to make sure you get the maximum compensation you’re entitled to if you’ve been injured on the job or due to someone else’s negligence. Call us today or contact us online to schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys!