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Personal Injury vs. Workers' Compensation: Which Should I File?

If you suffered an injury on company grounds or while performing work duties, you may be wondering whether you should file a workers’ compensation claim or a personal injury lawsuit. In general, when an employee is injured on the job, the only option is obtaining workers' comp benefits. However, there are some cases where filing a personal injury lawsuit is also possible.

Here are several differences between workers’ compensation and personal injury:

Establishing Fault

In a workers’ compensation case, an injured employee does not need to determine who is to blame for his/her injury in order to obtain benefits. In the event of a workplace accident, any employee injured is entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. Even if the employee was negligent, he/she can still obtain workers’ comp benefits.

By contrast, in order to recover financial compensation in a personal injury case, an injured party must prove another party was negligent and that their negligence caused the accident and the plaintiff’s injury.

Right to Sue

According to workers’ compensation laws, all employees who suffer an on-the-job injury would receive benefits and get their medical bills covered in exchange that they forfeit their right to sue their employers and fellow employees for negligence. On the other hand, you must file a lawsuit in a personal injury case to obtain financial compensation.

Legal Process

When an injured employee files a workers’ compensation claim, he/she starts by notifying their employer of the incident. After receiving medical treatment, the employee and their employer fill out and submit forms to begin the process. The employer’s insurance company then investigates your claim and either approves or denies workers’ compensation.

In regard to a personal injury case, an injured party files a case in a county court and serves the other party with a copy of the lawsuit, giving them an opportunity to respond. You can request records and perform depositions. The case can either be settled out of court or go to trial.


In a worker’s compensation case, you can only receive weekly or periodic payments, medical expenses, permanent impairment benefits, and vocational rehabilitation. Injured employees are not allowed to recover compensation for pain and suffering since they lose their right to such damages when they receive workers’ comp benefits.

In a personal injury lawsuit, an injured party is entitled to recover all of the damages he/she sustained. This includes past and future medical expenses, lost wages, lost earning capacity, permanent impairment, pain and suffering, emotional distress, and potentially punitive damages.

Is It Possible for Workers’ Comp & Personal Injury to Overlap?

Yes. If an employee suffers a work injury due to the negligence of a third party (i.e. someone who is not affiliated with the company), you can file a personal injury lawsuit against that party. In addition, there are some circumstances which allow an employee to sue their employer, such as if the employer intentionally hurt the employee or the employer provides insufficient workers’ comp benefits or none at all.

If you have suffered an injury at an Idaho workplace, contact our Pocatello personal injury attorney at May, Rammell & Wells today.


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