Is a Workers Compensation Case the Same as a Personal Injury Claim?

There’s often a lot of confusion that happens when someone is injured on the job. Yes, the injury should be covered by workers’ compensation, but as the number one personal injury lawyer in Los Angeles, our team at Hershey Law knows the questions don’t end there.


With more than 50,000 injuries occurring in California alone, strict protocols must be followed when a workplace injury happens. Because of these guidelines on both the business owner and the injured, following the system often means that the injured party can not make a personal injury claim. However, like most everything, there are exclusions to this stipulation.


Here, our experts are helping you understand a little more about the overlap in workers’ comp and personal injury claims.


Understanding Workers’ Compensation Law in California

In general, if you are hurt on the job, workers’ compensation insurance will cover your medical expenses. With a strict set of guidelines to follow, laws and regulations ensure employees are cared for in the event of a workplace injury.


However, if you face problems obtaining coverage for your care, a workers’ comp attorney can help. Each state has its regulations concerning coverage, but in California, there are no exceptions. Every employer, even if they only have one part-time employee, must carry workers’ compensation insurance. Any employer found violating this requirement can be prosecuted. Below are a few penalties that may be imposed in California:


  • Financial Penalty up to double the total amount of premiums for the time the employer did not have coverage or $1,500 per employee.
  • Forced Closure of the business, either temporarily or permanently, with a fine of over $10,000 and a jail sentence for continued violations.
  • Property Lien held by the employer to pay the injured employee’s benefits.


What does Worker’s Comp cover?

Because workers’ comp and personal injury claims often look the same, finding an experienced personal injury lawyer is generally the best step in determining what path you should take. Most cases result in physical damages like:


  • Neck and back strains or sprains
  • Whiplash
  • Broken bones
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Lacerations
  • Long-term chronic illnesses
  • Loss of extremities


Suppose it is determined that a workers’ compensation claim is the right path. In that case, your on-the-job insurance will cover your medical care and other treatment necessary to return to your pre-injury status.


Isn’t an on-the-job injury a personal injury, too?

For a workers’ comp injury to fall into the realm of a personal injury case, understanding the subtle differences comes first. For example, in a workers’ compensation injury, fault is not an issue. Whether you were injured because of your own mistake or someone else’s negligence, you are still covered under insurance. Further, you can also file a claim against the workers’ comp coverage for long-term and permanent injuries.


However, in a personal injury case, recovery of damages depends on your attorney’s ability to prove negligence against the defendant. Providing sufficient evidence directly pointing the arrow from your accident and injury to the fault of the accused is imperative.


Another significant difference falls within the damages received in workers’ comp as opposed to what a personal injury lawyer may be able to obtain. Damages due to an injury on the job have a specific formula. Most people can expect to receive financial compensation for any lost earnings missed while recovering. Further, you will most likely receive further benefits for any permanent physical injury and medical expenses.


If you cannot work in your previous capacity, you may also be entitled to vocational rehabilitation. This service is intended to either help you get back to doing what you once did or train you to work in a new career.


Personal injury damages are different in that what you receive depends on the evidence presented.


A solid personal injury case with an expert personal injury lawyer can mean that you not only receive lost wages and medical expenses but that you are also awarded damages for pain and suffering. This extra compensation exists because a personal injury results from another’s negligence. Without this negligence, the circumstance causing the injury would not have been present. In severe cases, punitive damages may also be awarded.


Another significant distinction between the two types of claims is the way they are handled. Workers’ comp claims start at the job by notifying the employer of the injury. From there, the doctors and received treatment are determined in large by the compensation carrier. In contrast, you seek treatment from those willing to accept your insurance coverage in a personal injury case. Here, you are in charge of your care and the way the case heads.


In a personal injury case, your lawyer will serve the at-fault party. You and your hired attorney have a right to all records, depositions, and information on the case to prepare your evidence. Whether you settle out of court or request a juried trial is up to you. The key to this path is to have sufficient evidence proving negligence.


Can the two cases overlap?

In rare situations, a workers’ compensation case may have elements of a personal injury lawsuit. However, for the most part, once you enter the workers’ comp arena, you can’t switch over to personal injury – and you can’t choose to ignore the workers’ comp aspect because you would prefer a personal injury claim to be filed.


However, if your injury happened due to the negligence of a third party, you may still be able to file a claim. The claim would be against that party, not your employer. For instance, if the injury happened at work because of the actions of a customer or someone else, a personal injury lawsuit may be an option.


Do you need a personal injury lawyer?

Before a personal injury claim can be filed, you may need help navigating through muddy waters. This instance is when hiring an experienced personal injury lawyer will prove worthwhile. Addressing the accident at hand and the events leading up to and after it help determine which type (if not both) claim is best.


Other circumstances may also apply, bringing in the need for a personal injury lawyer. For example, you may also have a workplace wrongful lawsuit if you were fired or otherwise sanctioned because of your injury or claim. If your accident occurred because of hazards on the job or unsafe working conditions, OSHA might need to become involved.


Before you decide that you have to settle on what the workers’ comp attorney says you are worth, contact an expert personal injury lawyer at Hershey Law. Our professionals will evaluate your case and work with you to determine the next steps.


Contact Hershey Law Office today to schedule your free consultation (310) 929-2190.