Generally, the employee’s sole and exclusive remedy against an employer is through a workers’ compensation claim when injured on the job. However, he/she may have a personal injury claim as well—if there is third-party liability involved.
In a personal injury claim, a person can recover for numerous losses but can only receive one settlement. In a PI case, one can recover for lost income and past and future medical bills; as well as, damages for pain and suffering, punitive damages, loss of enjoyment of life, earning capacity, and other losses. However, the employee in a workers’ compensation claim can receive continuous payments for his/her disability (in some cases a settlement) and for the costs of reasonable medical bills and lost wages, but will NOT receive an award for pain and suffering.
Additionally, it does not matter who is to blame for the employee’s injury in a worker’s compensation case. In fact, the injury could be attributed to the fault of the employee (as long as the employee’s actions weren’t willful or due to fighting, horseplay, etc.). The worker’s compensation claim is only required to show that the injury occurred while in the course of employment and that the injury was related to the scope of employment. While on the other-hand, a civil suit in tort (for personal injuries) requires the plaintiff to demonstrate that the defendant had a duty to the plaintiff, breached that duty, and caused the plaintiff’s damages. Basically, the defendant has to be shown as negligent in some form or fashion and that the defendant’s negligence led to the causing of your injury.
Some people assume that they have to choose between the two in their case. However, that is not always the case. In some instances, a person may pursue a worker’s compensation claim and a third-party liability claim (i.e. delivery truck driver hit from behind by a negligent (non-employee) driver). However, you should retain an attorney to assist with either type of claim as it is essential to a substantial and successful recovery in your case!
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