If you were involved in a workplace accident, it may be confusing to determine whether you need to file a workers’ compensation claim or a personal injury claim against your employer. In Kansas and Missouri, you most likely will need to file a workers’ compensation claim. You should know how this option differs from a personal injury claim, because it affects your rights to compensation.
Workers’ Comp and Personal Injury Claims: The Question of Liability
One of the key differences between personal injury and workers' compensation claims is the issue of fault. Personal injury cases involve many different types of injury claims, such as car accidents, slip and falls, and medical malpractice. In a personal injury case, you must prove the negligent party’s fault in causing your injuries in order to receive compensation.
Workers’ compensation operates differently. It's a no-fault system that provides you with benefits if you're injured in a workplace accident, regardless of who was at fault for causing it.
This means you could be entitled to benefits even if you were the negligent party.
Compensation in Personal Injury vs. Workers’ Comp Cases
Potential compensation in workers’ compensation is different than personal injury cases. Under workers’ compensation laws, you're entitled to benefits to pay your medical bills, a fixed portion of your wages, vocational rehabilitation and, if applicable, permanent disability benefits. You're not entitled to any pain and suffering damages.
In a personal injury case, you have the possibility of recovering to the full amount of your losses if you prove the other party’s negligence. This can make your claim worth more than in a workers’ compensation case. Types of compensation you may receive include:
- Past and future medical expenses
- Past and future lost wages and benefits of your job, such as commissions, bonuses, and sick and vacation time
- Lost earning capacity if you must make a career change or are permanently disabled
- Pain and suffering
Can You Sue an Employer in a Workers’ Compensation Case?
Your rights to sue when you suffer an injury at your job are more limited than in a personal injury accident. In exchange for the more guaranteed right of compensation that workers’ compensation provides, you give up the right to sue your employer and any co-workers whose negligence may have caused your injuries, except in limited circumstances. However, you do retain the right to file a lawsuit against third parties that were partially or completely at fault in causing your workplace accident.
In a personal injury case, you can—and should—pursue a claim for compensation against any potentially liable party. By doing so, you increase the likelihood you'll receive all you deserve for injury recovery.
Process of Filing a Workers’ Compensation and Personal Injury Claim
If you're hurt at work, you have to file a claim with your employer’s workers’ compensation insurance company. In a personal injury case, you would file a claim with the negligent party’s insurance carrier. This could be a driver’s automobile insurance, a homeowner’s insurance policy, or a business’ liability insurance coverage.
If there are disputes about your right to compensation, here's what happens:
- Workers’ compensation. Your claim would be filed with your state workers’ compensation agency, and an administrative judge decides your case. There are special laws and procedures governing workers’ compensation cases.
- Personal injury. When you cannot settle a personal injury case, you must file a lawsuit in civil court, where your case would be decided by a jury if it's not resolved during the litigation process.
Personal injury and workers’ compensation claims are similar in a few ways. In both, you may need to fight for the compensation you deserve. In addition, when filing either type of claim, you may need the assistance of an experienced attorney who handles the type of case you have to protect your interests and ensure a full chance at financial recovery.
Were you injured in a workplace accident? Our skilled workers’ compensation attorneys are here to explain your rights and to fight for your benefits. We also represent clients in personal injury claims, and can pursue litigation for you. Contact us online or call us directly at 816.471.5111 to schedule your free consultation.