Workers’ compensation and personal injury claims often seem to go hand in hand. Many law firms, including our own, are equipped to take cases in both fields. However, though both types of claims deal with attaining compensation for accident victims, there are some key differences between workers’ comp and personal injury claims.
Workers' Comp vs. Personal Injury
When someone is wrongfully injured due to the negligent actions of an individual or organization, the injured party may file a lawsuit against the at-fault party. The plaintiff, the individual filing the lawsuit, can sue whether they were hurt due to a car wreck, slip and fall accident, construction mishap, medical malpractice, or a number of other scenarios. This is called a personal injury claim.
A workers’ compensation claim, alternatively, must involve an individual being hurt either at their workplace or while performing their job. How they were injured and who was at fault doesn’t matter as much as whether or not they were on the clock at the time of their injury.
Aside from the definition of the two claims, there are two major differences between personal injury and workers’ comp:
- The importance of establishing fault
- The damages an injured person can receive compensation for
The Importance of Fault
In personal injury cases, establishing fault is a vital component to building a strong claim. A plaintiff must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant, the person they are suing, is to blame for their injury. If a plaintiff cannot show evidence that proves the defendant’s negligence actions (or, in some cases, inaction) directly caused their accident, they do not have a personal injury claim in Kentucky.
However, in workers’ compensation claims, establishing fault is not necessary at all. It doesn’t matter who caused an employee’s accident—all an employee has to do is prove that they were actually hurt and that their injury occurred at the workplace or while working off-site. This means that even if an employee’s own negligence led to their injury, they can still receive worker’s comp benefits (with very few exceptions).
In this way, the workers’ comp system ensures that employees receive compensation for their injuries while also protecting their employer from facing a lawsuit.
The Damages an Injured Person Can Receive
The second major difference between workers’ comp and personal injury claims is the type of damages the injured party is eligible to be compensated for. “Damages” describes any losses experienced by the plaintiff as a result of their accident.
Examples of damages include:
- The cost of medical treatment and rehabilitation
- Reimbursement of lost wages from having to take time off work
- Compensation for pain, suffering, and mental anguish
- Payment for property damage repairs
- Death benefits and funeral and burial expenses, in the case of wrongful death
In a personal injury claim, a plaintiff could potentially be eligible to receive all of the above—if not more. Damages paid in a personal injury lawsuit are circumstantial and are based on an individual’s specific losses.
For example, if a car accident victim had to have knee surgery, take time off work to recover from their operation, and have their vehicle repaired, they would get compensated for those particular losses, plus a bit extra to cover the pain and suffering they endured after the accident.
However, because the workers’ compensation system in Kentucky and the rest of the United States comes with predetermined standards, all victims of work accidents are eligible for only certain types of compensation. People filing for workers’ comp benefits are only eligible to receive compensation to pay off their medical bills and a portion of their lost wages. In the tragic event a worker dies, their family will receive compensation for wrongful death.
Workers’ compensation victims are not able to receive compensation for pain and suffering. However, in the event that an injured employee experienced psychological damage as a result of their accident—such as PTSD—they may be able to receive medical benefits to pay for therapy.
Have you been injured in Kentucky? If you believe that you may have a personal injury or workers’ compensation claim, our Louisville attorneys can help. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.