Should I File a Workers' Comp Claim or a Personal Injury Lawsuit?

A person who suffers an injury while performing a job related duty needs to find compensation and coverage somewhere, especially if that injury is serious enough to take them off their feet. If you have been hurt on-the-job, the question immediately becomes, “Do I file a workers’ compensation claim? Or create a personal injury lawsuit?” Either route has the potential of getting you the money you need to recover in comfort, so which one should you choose?

When Workers’ Comp Works

The benefit of workers’ compensation claims is that you don’t need to prove liability. In fact, your employer might not even bring it up, meaning you can get workers’ compensation for an accident that is completely your own fault. The key is that the accident or injury occurred while you were at work or performing some sort of task related to your job, such as being hit by a car while out on an office supply run. A workers’ comp claim also has the potential to close much faster than a personal injury lawsuit due to this “no liability required” rule, so you could start seeing money come in within weeks or sooner. Of course, your case could be denied and you will need to go through an appeals process with an attorney from there.

Personal Injury Lawsuit Benefits

If you are approved for workers’ comp benefits, you are probably going to get coverage for your medical bills and then about 66% of your regular wages while you recover. For many people, this is not really enough to get by. A personal injury lawsuit in California allows you to collect money for 100% your missing wages, any property that was damaged, and all of your past, current, and future medical bills. You also may be able to use nominal damages – pain and suffering – that have no cap, meaning you can collect really any amount you want, if you win your case. If you cannot prove that liability falls on your employer or someone else, three things happen:

  1. You lose your case and collect nothing.
  2. Any court or attorney fees need to be paid by you.
  3. You lose your right to workers’ compensation, in most cases.

In short, personal injury cases have the potential to get you much, much more but they also have a much higher chance of resulting in you getting nothing at all. Higher risk, higher reward – what is worth it to you?

Best of Both Worlds

There is nothing that says that workers’ compensation claims must be completely separate from personal injury lawsuits. In a few distinct circumstances, you might actually have the chance to file one of each case type, reaping benefits from each if you are double-successful.

You could likely file a workers’ comp claim and an injury lawsuit if:

  • You were hurt at work due to a defective product or equipment, allowing you to file a claim and sue the product manufacturer.
  • Your employer does not have workers’ compensation insurance, allowing you to sue them directly in civil court for recoveries.
  • You were hurt due to the intentional wrongdoing or the gross neglect of your employer, allowing you to sue them for neglect.

A detailed examination of both workers’ compensation claims and personal injury lawsuits will reveal spots where the two overlap, and other areas where they completely diverge. In order to make sense of the similarities and differences, and decide what you should do after being hurt on-the-job, contact Ufkes & Bright. Our Santa Ana workers’ compensation lawyers have been serving Southern California since 1964.

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