The Difference Between a Personal Injury and Workers’ Compensation Claim
Written by Shawn Diederich on October 7, 2016
“Personal injury” refers to a broad class of potential civil claims, ranging from premises liability to car accidents. “Workers’ compensation,” in contrast, is a specific type of claim applicable to workers injured in the course of their employment. While personal injury and workers’ compensation overlap in some respects, there are important differences that should be understood.
Negligence vs. No-Fault
In a personal injury case the plaintiff—the person alleging the injury—must prove that the defendant was negligent or “at fault.” In a car accident lawsuit, for example, the plaintiff might allege the defendant’s reckless driving led to the accident, which in turn injured the plaintiff. A judge or jury will not simply take the plaintiff’s word for it: The plaintiff must prove the defendant’s negligence by a “preponderance of the evidence.”
Workers’ compensation differs in that it is a “no-fault” system. If an eligible worker is injured on the job, the employer is obligated to pay certain benefits without regard to who was at fault for the accident. In other words, the employee does not have to prove the employer was negligent in order to receive compensation.
Full Compensation vs. Limited Benefits
While that may sound like a good deal for the employee, the downside of workers’ compensation, relative to a personal injury lawsuit, is that the actual compensation is restricted by law. In Florida, workers’ compensation limits an employee’s recovery to medical expenses and a percentage of wages lost during recovery. In a traditional personal injury claim, a successful plaintiff may recover damages for all losses suffered, including wages, future lost earning capacity, and non-economic damages for things like “pain and suffering.”
Workers’ compensation also gives the employer a great deal of control over the process. The employer (and its insurance carrier) make the initial decision to grant or deny benefits. If the employer rejects a claim, the employee cannot seek immediate relief in court. In a personal injury lawsuit, the plaintiff is entitled to a trial before an impartial jury. In workers’ compensation, there is an administrative hearing before a state official.
Where You Are Injured Matters
What it basically comes down to is your legal rights depend on the location and circumstances of your injury. If you slip and fall on a broken floorboard at a retail store and break your leg, you can file a personal injury lawsuit against the owner and possibly recover full damages. But if you suffer that same injury at your workplace, you are limited to only those benefits provided by your employer and its workers’ compensation insurance carrier.
Regardless of where you suffer an injury, it is important to fight for your legal rights. An experienced Orlando personal injury lawyer can assist you with many types of claims, including workers’ compensation, and ensure your case does not get lost in the system. Contact the Diederich Law Firm, P.A., if you would like to speak with an attorney right away.