There are several key differences between personal injury suits and workers' compensation claims. The main distinction is that a party must be at fault if there is to be personal injury claim, such as a driver who causes a vehicle accident or a faulty product. A workers' compensation claim, on the other hand, is not fault based but it must happen in the course of doing work. Since there does not have to be anyone at fault, the injured person does not have to prove that an employer or co-worker was negligent to receive benefits.
Other Notable Differences
Along with the main issue of fault, other notable differences between PI and workers' compensation include:
Pain and suffering: Personal injury claims can include pain and suffering damages. Workers' compensation benefits do not address damages for pain and suffering; instead, workers' comp pays for loss of income and medical expenses, and in some cases, specific loss of use of a body part or disfigurement benefits.
Filing a lawsuit: Workers' compensation ensures that all workers injured on the job will get at least two-thirds of their pay (sometimes 90%) and their medical bills paid. In return, workers lose the option to file a lawsuit, unless it is a third party suit against someone who caused the injury but who not the employer. There are two exceptions for suing an employer: The Jones Act authorizes workers on boats and ships to sue for damages, and the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA) authorizes interstate railroad workers to sue for damages.
Lawyers' fees: Worker's compensation attorneys are paid on a contingency, generally 20 percent of benefits recovered or preserved, and in litigation the insurance company can be forced to reimburse litigation costs. Personal injury attorneys also work on contingency, but the rates are higher -- from 30 to 40 percent (or more).
Awards and settlements: Personal injury settlements are a lump sum for a temporary or permanent injury. PI claims are often lengthy processes of negotiation and/or litigation, and there is no guarantee that you will win a settlement. In workers' comp a lump sum settlement of benefits is possible only if the injured enters into a compromise and release agreement (also known as a C&R agreement) with his or her employer or it's workers' comp insurance provider.
Attorneys can help with these processes
An attorney can provide much-needed guidance to clients in both personal injury and workers' comp cases. Whether it is applying for workers' comp or seeking PI damages, an attorney can draw upon years of experience to work toward the best possible outcome for the client.