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Work Injury or Personal Injury: What’s the Difference?

If you were injured at work, you may believe that your only option for paying for medical bills is through workers’ compensation. But there are some situations where you should file a personal injury claim for your work injury, even though you were hurt while on the clock.

Read on to learn more about the differences between a work injury and a personal injury, including what kinds of damages you can recover for each type of claim, and how negligence affects which claim you can file.

How were you injured?

man working

The main difference between a work injury and a personal injury is who is at fault.

A personal injury claim is filed when you have been injured because of someone else’s negligence. If you slip and fall because your landlord didn’t salt the parking lot, or if you were hurt in a car accident that wasn’t your fault, then you can file a personal injury claim through the negligent person’s insurance.

Your own negligence could be used against you in a personal injury claim, so you should consider using a personal injury lawyer who can help file the claim and compile evidence that helps prove you aren’t at fault.

A workers’ compensation claim covers any employee who is injured while on the job. This covers injuries as well as occupational illnesses like carpel tunnel syndrome or exposure to toxic chemicals. Negligence has no part in it: you could be 100 percent at fault for your work injury and you could still receive compensation.

While you don’t have to worry about proving negligence, you may run into trouble if your employer denies your work comp claim. If that happens, you can appeal the claim (a lawyer can help out with this, too).

What damages can you recover?

tired businesswoman

A personal injury claim entitles you to compensation for all damages. This includes but but is not limited to:

  • Medical bills, including future costs of physical therapy
  • Loss of enjoyment of life
  • Lost wages
  • Pain and suffering (non-economic damages)

Insurance companies do not like to pay a single penny more than they have to, and will try to find ways to justify a smaller settlement. You may not have the time or emotional energy to argue with an insurance rep while recovering for an injury. If that’s the case, a personal injury lawyer can deal with the insurance company on your behalf so you get a fair settlement.

Work injury benefits are paid through your employer’s workers’ compensation insurance policy. Unlike personal injury claims, you can only recover certain damages:

  • Medical bills, including future costs of physical therapy
  • Weekly wage compensation
  • Permanent impairment and temporary disability benefits
  • Job retraining

These benefits are meant to help you until you are able to return to work. You cannot recover pain and suffering through worker’s comp.

Unless your employer denies your claim, you should begin receiving workers’ comp benefits within days of filing. If you are cleared for work by the physician chosen for you by the insurance company, then you will no longer receive wage benefits. There also may be a time limit on how long you can receive temporary disability payments through workers’ comp.

When can you file a personal injury claim for a work injury?

man writing

You can file a personal injury claim for a work injury if your injury was caused by a negligent third party (a party other than your employer).

Third party negligence may look something like this:

  • The company hired by your employer to salt the parking lot never put salt down, and you slipped
  • The driver of a delivery truck hit you while delivering supplies to your office
  • The equipment that you use for your job was defective

In a third party claim you are allowed to seek damages for pain and suffering.

You could still file a workers’ comp claim to make up for missed wages because you were still injured while on the clock, which can tide you over while you settle with the third party’s insurance.

In some cases, your employer’s negligence is what caused your injury. For instance if your employer knew that the equipment you were using was faulty, or if they didn’t provide you with adequate training to use the equipment, then they would be negligent. In that case you would still file a workers’ comp claim. If things get complicated, an attorney can help.

Help from a Workers’ Comp Attorney

A workers’ comp attorney can help determine whether a workers’ comp claim or a personal injury claim is the right choice for you depending on the circumstances leading to your injury. And if your employer doesn’t cooperate openly through the workers’ compensation claim process, an attorney can help ensure you receive the settlement that you are due.

Do you have questions about compensation after a personal injury or work injury? Hensley Legal Group may be able to help. Call us or contact us online for a free conversation about your claim.