Guest Author, not affiliated with St Louis Personal Injury law firm, Sansone / Lauber.
You might think that the difference between these two types of claims is pretty obvious: one involves accident or injury in the workplace while the other involves incidents outside of your place of employment, such as a car accident or or DWI wrongful death, just to name a few. But it's actually a little more complicated than that. After all, you can experience a personal injury in the workplace that may not be covered by workers comp and you might also have an accident, injury, or illness outside the workplace that is covered. And there can be times when it seems like the two types of claims overlap. While you may have to seek the services of a qualified attorney to find out exactly how to go about filing your claim, since all cases are different, here are just a few of the major differences that you should be aware of.
First of all, workers compensation claims apply to you only if you are hurt on the job. However, this doesn't necessarily mean that you have to be at your place of employment when an injury or accident occurs. You may be running errands on the clock or engaged in travel for work. You could be at a work site. If you are involved in actions for your employer, you can try to claim workers comp, even if fault cannot be determined or if the incident was your own fault. Of course, there are some instances in which claims may be denied, but if your employer provides workers compensation, you have no grounds for filing a personal injury claim.
Personal injury claims, on the other hand, are generally filed in response to accident or injury that is the result of negligence or direct actions by others, and the person filing the claim has the onus to prove fault by others. Although this type of claim can be filed against an employer, it is usually preferable to file a worker's compensation claim first, since most companies are willing to offer workers comp in order to avoid a personal injury lawsuit. The reasons are multiple.
For one thing, workers comp has strict limits on coverage. It will cover medical expenses (often including physical therapy), retraining, and disability. Personal injury claims, on the other hand, have no limits on the type or amount of compensation the claimant may receive. Further, workers comp claims are decided by an impartial group or board members known as the Workers Compensation Board when the employer and employ cannot agree on compensation. Personal injury cases go before a jury, which may be easily swayed by a wronged claimant. So it's easy to see why most employers prefer the due process of worker's comp to the unknown outcome of personal injury lawsuits.
If a personal injury claim is filed, it could end up costing an employer a lot more money, since the goal of personal injury law is to make the injured party "whole", which could include punitive damages for pain and suffering, an area of compensation that is hard to define and therefore, could carry a hefty price tag. The truth is, you'll have to decide which type of claim is best suited to your case. But remember that a personal injury case could result in zero compensation, so if your employer offers workers compensation, you should consider taking it.
ABOUT THE GUEST AUTHOR: Carol Montrose is a contributing writer for the Maryland Accident Lawyer Group at Price Benowitz LLP. The firm has offices in Washington, DC, Maryland, Virginia, and New York and handles DUI, criminal, immigration, personal injury, and disability cases.