Difference between Workers' Compensation and Personal Injury cases.
Workers' Compensation (WC) applies regardless of who is at fault for your injuries.
When you get injured on the job, no matter who is at fault (even if it is you), you may qualify for your employer’s Worker Compensation insurance benefits.
Personal Injury (PI) cases are against someone who was at fault for your injuries.
In contrast, personal injury cases require that you prove that your injuries were caused by a negligent/careless person (or company). Examples include a careless driver, a company that carelessly manufactures a dangerous product, a trucking company that carelessly trains and supervises its drivers, a doctor that carelessly performs an operation, etc. Basically any case involving someone who was careless / negligent and it resulted in harm to someone (even if it happens on the job) is a PI case.
Note: PI cases are civil, which means that the negligent person did something careless but did not intend to cause harm. When a person or company intends to cause harm, that becomes a criminal case.
Your compensation in a WC case is controlled by formulas / schedules.
Your employer's WC insurance will pay for your reasonable and necessary medical treatment, partial wage loss (usually 2/3 of your weekly wage), and a pre-assigned or scheduled amount for any permanent disability / impairment based on an ‘impairment rating’ assigned by your doctors.
Personal injury cases entitle you to more compensation than a WC case.
In a PI case, you may be entitled to compensation for things that you aren’t under WC, like past and/or future pain, suffering, loss of household services, and lost quality or enjoyment of life. In addition, in a PI case you are entitled to compensation for 100% of any past and/or future lost income (as opposed to just 2/3 under the WC rules), as well as loss of earning ability (if your injury makes it harder to earn a living).
Personal Injury compensation is not controlled by formulas or schedules.
The only factors that may limit your compensation in a personal injury case are: 1) the limits of the careless/negligent person’s insurance policy; and 2) certain State-imposed caps that apply to ‘pain and suffering’ compensation, punitive damage awards, wrongful death cases, medical malpractice cases, and cases against a government entity.
Unlike WC cases, in PI cases there are no formulas or schedules for how much an injury is worth. It’s up to the jury to decide how much an injured victim deserves, which is usually based on very person-specific circumstances, like how long did it take the victim to recover from their injuries, or how much the injury affected things like their day-to-day life, household chores, relationships, and hobbies or activities that they enjoy doing.
Can I have both a WC and PI case?
Yes, if you get injured on the job because of the carelessness of a third party (someone other than you or your employer). For example, let’s say you get injured on the job when you step on a piece of glass left behind by a contractor who was hired to do some office renovations. In this situation, you could apply for WC benefits through your employer, and you could also make a PI claim against the contractor for not carefully removing dangerous debris from the office.
Still not sure? Call Gama Law Firm in Aurora, CO, today and speak directly with attorney Richard Gama at no charge. He has more than a decade of experience handling nothing but personal injury cases and would be happy to speak with you about your issue, whether you decide to hire him or not.