Can You File a Personal Injury Claim if You Got Hurt at Work
Accidents and injuries at work can happen in multiple ways. Falling products may hurt you in a warehouse. You may experience muscle strain in your wrists after typing for years. You may have to take some weeks off after a machine malfunctions and damages your arm.
Seeking compensation for your workplace accident is straightforward—or is it? Do you have to stay within the workers’ compensation system or can you obtain other compensation for your injuries?
While workers’ compensation can be beneficial for many people, they are not always enough to cover your injury-related losses. Some injured workers might have an additional personal injury claim against a negligent party.
Find out if you can file a personal injury claim for your workplace accident with the help of an experienced workers compensation attorney.
Common workplace accidents
The intersection of workplace accidents and personal injury claims can be very confusing, so speaking to an attorney after suffering an injury on the job is always important. The right lawyer can review what happened and advise you of your rights to compensation.
Some common workplace accidents and injuries include:
- Slip and fall accidents
- Repetitive motion injuries
- Auto accidents
- Electrocution accidents
- Crush injuries
- Being stuck between two objects
- Being hit by falling objects
- Vision loss
- Hearing loss
Many of these can happen on the job or outside the workplace. Who is liable will be the most important factor in determining your legal rights following a work injury or illness.
Waiving your right to sue your employer
Most employers must carry workers’ compensation insurance. Workers’ compensation insurance is a no-fault insurance that compensates employees for certain losses from their job-related injuries. However, having access to that compensation means waiving your right to sue your employer.
Employees do not have to prove an employer was at fault to obtain benefits for their injuries. On the other hand, employees forgo the right to sue their employer for their injuries, even if an employer was negligent. However, employers are automatically liable for their workers’ injuries at the workplace, but compensation can be limited. When you qualify for workers’ compensation benefits, you also exchange your right to pursue legal action against your employer.
This does not mean you give up your right to file a personal injury lawsuit against other parties who are not your employer, though.
Workers’ compensation benefits
Workers’ compensation benefits cover certain losses from your workplace accident. These benefits include coverage of your medical expenses related to the accident and part of your lost income. Workplace injuries can prevent you from working temporarily or permanently.
Workers’ compensation benefits you might receive include:
- Temporary disability. These benefits cover your expenses for some time before you return to work. Once you return to work, these benefits end.
- Permanent disability. These benefits go to workers whose injuries are deemed permanent. You may be eligible for these benefits if your injuries prevent you from returning to work.
- Medical only. These benefits cover all the medical expenses related to your accident.
- Fatalities. These benefits go to the survivors of workers whose injuries were fatal. Families can use these benefits to cover the costs of burial expenses and financial compensation for family members.
The benefits you’ll receive depend on factors like your maximum medical improvement. This is a standard that insurance companies use to determine your eligibility for work. You have reached maximum medical improvement if your injuries are healed or they have healed as much as possible. Some people might have permanent disabilities from their injuries, and their maximum medical improvement occurs when treatment will no longer improve their condition.
Future disability benefits from workers’ comp will depend on your disability rating once you reach MMI.
Restrictions on workers’ compensation benefits
When you’re injured at the workplace, having guaranteed compensation sounds great. But the benefits may not be as certain as you believe. The compensation offered to you may not be enough to cover your bills if you cannot work. Your workplace injury might also have negative effects on other areas of your life that workers’ compensation does not cover.
Let’s say you worked another job outside of your primary job. The workplace accident at your primary job affected your ability to work at your second job. Even worse, you may not know if you can ever return to that second job. You might have to give up beloved hobbies or activities in your personal life, as well.
Your workers’ compensation benefits may not cover the loss of your second job’s income or your loss of your usual activities. If you are in this position, you want to explore additional options for compensation.
Filing a personal injury claim
When you have suffered an injury because of another person’s negligence, you have been the victim of a personal injury accident.
Personal injury accidents involve:
- Reasonable care. A person must have owed you a particular level of care.
- Breach of reasonable care. Someone must have acted unreasonably under the circumstances.
- Causation. A person’s reckless actions must have caused physical or mental harm to you.
- Damages. Your injuries must lead to damages, including economic and non-economic losses.
In general, if a person’s careless actions have seriously hurt you, you can file a personal injury claim. This is true in the case of some workplace accidents, as well. You cannot sue your employer, but you can sue another party not affiliated with your employer if they were negligent and caused your accident.
Potential compensation for your workplace accident
Filing a personal injury claim allows you to sue for damages you can’t obtain with workers’ compensation. Workers’ compensation benefits only cover medical expenses and around 60 percent of your lost income.
With a personal injury claim, you can seek compensation for:
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of consortium
- Property damage
- 100 percent of your past and future lost income
Filing a claim before it’s too late
In addition to listing the proper liable parties and damages for your claim, it’s just as important to file before the deadline passes. Every personal injury claim has a deadline for victims to file. This deadline is known as the statute of limitations.
Filing past your statute of limitations can prevent you from seeking compensation for your accident in the future. The time you have to file your claim depends on your accident. If your accident was an auto accident, you might have to file a claim anywhere from one to six years from the time of your accident, depending on your state. For example, California gives you two years to file an injury case.
Multiple parties and liability
Another important part of your personal injury claim is who to hold liable for your accident. With personal injury claims, who you name as the liable party of your accident is critical. You must prove how their careless actions caused you to experience serious harm.
There are some accidents where multiple parties are to blame. Product liability accidents, premises liability accidents, and truck accidents are some accidents where multiple parties might have been at fault.
Depending on the circumstances of your workplace accident, there may also be more than one party who contributed to your injuries. If someone other than your employer was responsible for your workplace accident, you might file a personal injury claim against that party.
Can I file a third-party claim while accepting workers’ compensation benefits?
One of the biggest misconceptions about workers’ compensation claims is that it’s the only type of compensation injured workers can get. Often, injured workers can also file a negligence claim against a third party.
One of the most common parties listed in third-party claims is product manufacturers. When a defective piece of machinery or tool causes a workplace accident (which is common), manufacturers are held liable.
Even if you are receiving workers’ compensation benefits, you may still file a third-party claim for your accident. You may want to speak with an attorney if you don’t know whether to file a third-party claim for your workplace accident. There are some benefits and challenges that come with the decision.
Benefits of filing third-party claims
One of the obvious benefits is additional compensation. If you are successful with your claim, you can seek compensation for additional damages like pain and suffering, property damage, and loss of enjoyment of life.
You may also take advantage of a legal right known as subrogation. This legal right prevents you and your employer from being held liable for damages caused by another party. Subrogation protects you and your employer in a claim while allowing you to fight for the compensation you deserve for your workplace injuries.
Challenges with third-party claims
One of the primary challenges with third-party claims is establishing liability. Unlike workers’ compensation claims, you must prove a third party’s fault in your accident. It’s often difficult to prove liability in cases with one defendant.
The third party may argue that they should not be held liable for your accident. The insurance company might also offer much less than you deserve for your losses. These are only some complications that can arise in work-related personal injury claims.
How to prove liability in third-party claims
The best way to prove a third party’s liability is through negligence. The more negligent the third party acted towards you, the greater their liability for your accident. To prove negligence, you must present evidence to an insurance company or in court. Insurers will not simply take your word that someone else caused your injuries. They expect proof.
You do not need to gather evidence of fault for a workers’ compensation claim, but you do for a personal injury claim. You need an attorney handling your case if you are bringing an injury lawsuit.
Third-party claims also allow you to hold third parties liable under different legal standards. Manufacturers may be responsible for injuries under strict liability in product liability cases.
Strict liability is a liability standard that holds all parties accountable regardless of their level of negligence.
Many manufacturers will argue that they were unaware of certain product defects. Under strict liability, that doesn’t matter. Manufacturers can still be held liable for any injuries their products cause.
Strict liability can also apply to hold property owners liable as well. This standard applies to hold negligent property owners who created hazardous conditions on their property responsible.
However, there are some defenses that third parties can use against strict liability. One of the most common defenses product manufacturers use is the assumption of risk. This defense argues that all consumers knew the risk associated with their product, whether they knew of a defect or not.
In addition to product manufacturers, property owners can also be held liable in third-party claims. Workplace accidents involving defective products aren’t the only accidents that allow you to file personal injury lawsuits.
Your workplace injury may have happened after being exposed to toxic substances. One of the most common toxic substances workers are exposed to is asbestos.
You can file a personal injury lawsuit against the property owner who exposed you to toxic substances. Like your employer, property owners are responsible for providing safe premises for all visitors.
Product manufacturers may also be liable for toxic substance exposure. If you used specific safety equipment that should have protected you against these substances, that might also be a defect.
Seeking additional help with your case
Getting compensation for a workplace accident isn’t as easy as it seems. Several parties might have caused your workplace accident. But not knowing your legal rights may prevent you from getting the compensation you deserve.
To better understand your legal options, you may want to speak with an experienced attorney. Your attorney can discuss the factors of your case and help you decide whether to file a personal injury lawsuit or not. Speak with an experienced personal injury attorney about your injuries today. You only have a limited time to file a claim. Act now.