The Difference Between a Personal Injury and Workers' Compensation Claim

If you are seeking damages for an injury, you will most likely file a personal injury or worker’s compensation claim. While both claims processes allow people who have been injured in accidents to collect payments for their damages, they are far from similar. Which claim you file depends on where an accident occurred. For example, if you were hit by a negligent driver on your way to work, you could file a personal injury claim. If you were hit by that same driver while making a delivery for your job, it would be a workers’ compensation claim.

If you are injured while on the job, you must file a claim under your employer’s workers’ compensation insurance program. You do not have the option to file a personal injury claim instead. In fact, many medical providers will ask up-front whether an injury occurred at work. This is critical because workers’ compensation and personal injury claims are handled by completely different processes.

Fault or No-Fault?

Perhaps the biggest difference between personal injury and workers’ compensation claims deals with who is at fault for an accident. Personal injury claims are governed by a “fault” system while workers’ compensation claims are handled on a “no-fault” basis.

  1. Personal injury claims and fault: One of the first (and crucial) factors in determining the success of a personal injury claim is proving that the defendant was at fault for the accident. For example, if a driver acts negligently by looking at his or her phone instead of paying attention to the road and causes an accident, they are at fault and may be liable for the resulting damages. Fault must be established for a personal injury claim or lawsuit to proceed. A person cannot simply file a claim against another individual or party who has done them no wrong.
  2. Workers compensation claims and the “no-fault” system: Injured workers can file a claim without having to prove that anyone was at fault for their injuries. Employees can even file claims when they themselves shared responsibility for the accident. There are some exceptions. For example, claims cannot be filed for injuries which were intentionally caused. Intoxication on the job is another factor which may disqualify a worker from filing a claim. Employers in the United States must provide employees with access to workers compensation insurance. In return, workers give up the right to sue employers for damages in court.

Recoverable Damages

Another major difference between these two claims processes is the type of damages which victims are eligible to recover. If you are injured outside of work and file a personal injury claim, your compensation will be based on the total damages and harm that you have suffered. This can include lost wages due to missed work, hindered income potential, pain & suffering, and a reduced quality of life.

On the other hand, if you are injured at work, the compensation you receive will be largely based on your total income or monthly salary. Workers compensation claims typically do not include damages such as pain and suffering. Instead, injured workers may claim compensation for expenses such as medical bills, lost wages, rehabilitation, and job retraining.

Seeking Compensation for an Injury? Call (646) 461-4009

The legal processes for workers compensation and personal injury claims are tremendously different and if you have suffered an injury, it is important to seek an attorney with experience in your type of case. At Lurie, Ilchert, MacDonnell & Ryan LLP, we have substantial experience helping clients in all aspects of both personal injury and worker’s compensation claims. Our New York City personal injury attorneys possess more than 100 years of combined experience and have recovered more than $500 million for past clients.

Do you have questions about your injury case? Request a FREE consultation with our firm today.