Workers’ compensation applies only to your on-the-job injuries or your work-related illnesses. You will need to file a personal injury lawsuit against the negligent party in order to receive compensation for other types of injuries. In some situations, however, you may be able to file both a workers’ compensation claim and a personal injury lawsuit.
Workers’ compensation is insurance coverage provided by your employer to help pay your medical bills and lost wages resulting from a workplace accident, illness, or disability. Each state has its own work comp rules, regulations, and procedures, which vary from state to state.
In many states, filing a work comp claim is your only recourse when you become injured or ill at work. If your claim is denied, your only recourse is to appeal that decision, likely to the administrative agency that handles work comp appeals in your state. Even if you lose your appeal, you still can’t sue your employer directly.
Keep in mind that work comp does not pay for your pain and suffering and other noneconomic losses. Nor can you get punitive damages in a work comp case.
Personal Injury Lawsuit
You undoubtedly will receive far more compensation in a personal injury lawsuit than you will in a workers’ compensation claim. Why? Because you sue not only for economic damages, such as your current and future medical bills and loss of income, but also for noneconomic damages, including the following:
- Physical pain and suffering
- Mental and emotional distress and anguish
- Embarrassment due to disfiguring scarring or the loss of a limb
- Loss of your ability to do all the things you did prior to your injury
- Your overall loss of enjoyment of life
In addition, the jury may award you punitive damages over and above your economic and noneconomic damages if you can prove that the actions of the defendant were especially egregious.
Workers’ Compensation Plus Personal Injury Lawsuit
In some situations, including the following, you can file both a workers’ compensation claim and a personal injury lawsuit:
- Your employer or coworker intentionally hurt you.
- Your employer has insufficient workers’ compensation insurance or, in Texas, no workers’ compensation coverage at all.
- A negligent third party, such as a client or customer of your employer, caused your injury.
- A negligent or reckless driver caused your injuries while you were driving a company vehicle.
Obtaining Legal Representation
Both workers’ compensation claims and personal injury lawsuits can, and often do, become quite complicated. This is why you need to consult with an experienced lawyer. He or she likely will know the ins and outs of both systems and can advise you regarding whether or not you can file both kinds of claims for the same injury or illness.