Personal Injury or Workers’ Comp: Which Is Better?

If you’ve been injured while at work, you may be wondering if personal injury or workers’ comp will work better for your situation.

The truth is, you don’t really get a choice.

People often confuse personal injury claims and workers’ compensation claims when they are actually very different things. This common misconception ends up hindering employees who fail to file a workers’ compensation claim believing they are suing their employer for a personal injury. 

Whether you file a personal injury or workers’ comp claim depends on the context of the incident.

Essentially, in order to file a workers’ compensation claim, you must have been injured while on the job.

With a personal injury claim, you simply must prove someone else is at fault for your injury or pain and suffering. It is not tied to work.

One is not necessarily better than the other, but workers’ compensation is designed in a way to protect both the employee and the employer. 

Let’s end the confusion today.

What Is Workers’ Compensation?

Workers' comp

According to Georgia workers’ compensation law, workers’ compensation allows injured employees to secure and receive benefits if injured on the job.

In the state of Georgia, any employers that have 3 or more employees are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance. 

Workers’ compensation insurance provides compensation for medical treatment, lost wages, and permanent disability for employees who have suffered a workplace injury. 

Additionally, workers’ compensation also provides benefits to dependents of work-related death victims. 

Essentially, workers’ compensation is a request for benefits. It is not a lawsuit against the employer. 

What Is Personal Injury?

A personal injury claim is completely different from workers’ compensation. 

In fact, it is a completely different type of law. Personal injury law is also known as tort law, and it allows people to file civil lawsuits for damages (monetary compensation) for losses that come as a result of an accident or incident.

David Goguen explains, “The purpose of the personal injury system is to allow the injured person to be compensated financially or ‘made whole’ after he or she has suffered harm due to someone else’s negligent or intentional conduct.”

To prevent people from just suing everyone all the time, personal injury requires the injured party to prove someone else is at fault.

Personal injury claims require fault. If no one is at fault, there is no claim. 

Personal injury is also associated with “pain and suffering.” 

When people talk about suing someone for pain and suffering, they tend to be discussing personal injury claims, not requesting workers’ compensation benefits.

Personal Injury or Workers’ Comp: Key Differences

Personal injury or workers’ comp? Let’s remove all the legal jargon and simply break down the key differences.

  • Workers’ compensation is only applicable to work injuries. Workers’ compensation is specifically designed for employees who are injured while at work. You cannot file a workers’ compensation claim and receive benefits for an injury that occurred outside of work, such as a car accident on the way home from work or going to the grocery store. 
  • Personal injury is applicable to injuries stemming from incidents outside of work. In contrast, a personal injury civil lawsuit can be filed about almost any type of injury against the party who caused pain and suffering, except for those injuries that take place while at work. Some common examples of personal injury cases are automobile accident injuries, medical malpractice, and slip and fall accidents. 
  • Workers’ compensation does not require finding fault. Workers’ compensation does not require the injured employee to prove fault. In fact, the employee can still get workers’ compensation benefits even if the employee was at fault himself. According to the Georgia State Board of Workers’ Compensation, “Today, the workers’ compensation law provides for specific benefits to be paid to employees for injuries arising out of and in the course of employment, without regard to negligence or fault, and at the same time, provides the employer with limited liability.”
  • Personal injury requires proving fault. In contrast, a personal injury lawsuit requires proving fault. If the injured party does not prove fault, they will not receive any compensation. Moreover, how much compensation is awarded largely depends on how fault is proven. 
  • Workers’ compensation is not a lawsuit. Workers’ compensation is not the process of suing your employer. It is not a lawsuit. Instead, it is an insurance system designed to provide compensation for medical treatment, lost wages, and permanent disability. It’s essentially an insurance claim. 
  • Personal injury is a civil lawsuit. In contrast, personal injury is a lawsuit. If you file a personal injury claim, you are suing the party you believe is at fault for your pain and suffering. 
  • Workers’ compensation provides benefits. Workers’ compensation provides benefits rather than damages for pain and suffering. Workers’ compensation benefits follow a strict guideline for how much compensation an employee may receive.
  • Personal injury provides monetary compensation. When determining if it is personal injury or workers’ comp, ask about compensation. A clear sign it is personal injury is if the person is seeking monetary compensation for more than just loss of income or medical treatment. With personal injury, a person can also receive compensation for pain and suffering. 

Rare Times When Employees Can Make Both Claims

Now that we’ve clarified the differences between personal injury and workers’ comp, it’s important to recognize that there are some situations where there is an overlap.

In these rare cases, an injured party may be able to both file a workers’ compensation claim and pursue a personal injury civil lawsuit.

For example, if the work injury was caused by a third party (a person or business not related to your employer), it is possible to have two claims: a workers’ compensation claim against the employer and a personal injury claim against the third party who is at fault for the injury.

One example of this type of situation is an automobile accident. If you were injured in a car accident while driving for your job, you can file a workers’ compensation claim because you were hurt while you were on the clock. In addition, you may make a personal injury claim against the third party who is at fault for the car accident. 

No, You Cannot Sue Your Employer

Sadly, there are tens of thousands of workplace injuries every year.

The truth is that if all the employees who suffered a workplace injury were allowed to sue their employers for pain and suffering (aka personal injury claim), businesses would go bankrupt and close all over America.

In this case, workers’ compensation protects employers from having to pay for costs they likely can’t afford.

However, workers’ compensation doesn’t just protect employers. 

Without workers’ compensation, if employees were unable to prove their employers were at fault for their injuries, they would not receive any financial compensation to help cover medical bills or loss of income. 

David Goguen explains, “Before states enacted workers’ compensation laws around the turn of the 20th century, the only remedy that injured workers had against their employers was to sue them for negligence. If the employer was not negligent, or if the employee did not sue or bring a claim against the employer, the employee got nothing.”

Workers’ comp works to help both employees and employers. Employees give up the right to sue their employers in return for workers’ compensation benefits.

[Related Read: I’ve Been Injured at Work. Can I Sue My Employer?]

Workers’ Compensation Isn’t a Lawsuit, But You Still Need a Lawyer

So, if workers’ compensation isn’t a lawsuit, why do you need a lawyer?

While workers’ compensation doesn’t involve suing your employer, it does involve a specific branch of government (the State Board of Workers’ Compensation).

As a result, it can be overwhelming to navigate the ins and outs of workers’ compensation to make sure you are truly receiving the benefits to which you are entitled.

While you may not be fighting your employer with a lawsuit, you are battling the insurance company.

And the insurance company does not want to give you money. 

Therefore, it is important to hire an experienced workers’ compensation attorney in Georgia to help you deal with the complications of workers’ compensation.

While a personal injury attorney may help, you really want an attorney who has experience working with the Georgia State Board of Workers’ Compensation. 

It’s been proven that injured workers represented by knowledgeable workers’ compensation lawyers get more benefits, better benefits, and higher settlements than those who don’t.

If you’ve been injured on the job, contact us today for a free, no-strings-attached consultation.

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