When you are injured at work, there is a lot to process. You’re likely wondering how you’ll pay your bills, how long you will be away from work, and how to get the medical treatment you need. Since workers’ compensation doesn’t pay the full amount of your missed wages, lots of workplace accident victims want to know if they can file a personal injury claim to make up the difference.
If you’ve suffered a workplace injury and you’re not sure what to do next, we can help. Call Thiry & Caddell at 251-351-3371 to schedule a consultation.
The Answer is Usually No
Unfortunately, in most circumstances you cannot file a personal injury claim at the same time as a workers’ compensation claim. In fact, you generally can’t file a personal injury claim at all for a workplace accident. This is due to the nature of workers’ compensation.
The workers’ compensation program was developed as a way to help employees get the compensation they deserve after an injury while still protecting employers from personal injury claims. This is particularly important for small businesses, for whom a personal injury claim could mean bankruptcy.
As part of the workers’ compensation system, workers injured at work because of an employer’s or coworker’s error cannot file a personal injury claim against them. This is true even if you can prove that your employer or coworker obviously caused your injuries. When this occurs, the only compensation you can receive is through the workers’ comp system.
Sometimes, Personal Injury Claims Are an Option
There are some circumstances in which you may be able to file a personal injury claim. In these situations, you’ll likely still start by filing a workers’ compensation claim. This program pays out more quickly and does not require proof of negligence, so it can help injured employees stay afloat while they pursue a personal injury claim.
Generally, a personal injury claim is available to an injured employee when they have a valid third-party claim. This means a claim involving someone who is not employed by their employer.
One common situation involves employees who drive between work sites throughout the day. If they are hit by a negligent driver while driving between locations, this is a work-related injury, but it also allows them to file a personal injury claim. The person at fault is not a coworker or employee, so the victim can file a claim against the other driver.
Another good example involves construction sites. While many of the workers on a construction site are employees of the same company, many companies fill in the gaps with subcontractors. Subcontractors are not employed by the injured worker’s company, so they can be held liable with a personal injury claim.
This may also be a viable option if an employee is injured by a customer or client. For example, consider a retail worker dealing with a belligerent customer. The customer gets angry and throws an item at the worker, hitting them in the head and causing an injury. The employee may have a valid claim against the customer.
When this type of situation occurs, the employee is often at risk of losing their job by filing a claim against the customer. This is why it is important to speak to an attorney.
When You Receive Funds from Workers’ Comp and a Personal Injury Claim
Note that you cannot be paid for the same expenses twice. That is to say, if workers’ compensation pays for your medical bills and then your personal injury claim also gives you money for your medical bills, you don’t get to keep the extra. Instead, workers’ compensation will typically be reimbursed for what they’ve paid you. Once their reimbursement is removed and your attorney’s fees are paid, you receive the remainder of your settlement.
Turn to Thiry & Caddell Today for the Help You Deserve
Have you been hurt at work? We understand the challenges you are facing, and we are here to help. Learn more about your legal options now by contacting Thiry & Caddell or calling us at 251-351-3371. We look forward to setting up a consultation and helping you plan your next steps.