What Is the Difference Between Workers’ Compensation & Personal Injury?
When someone is injured through the negligence or recklessness of another party or entity, they may be able to seek compensation for any damages they sustained because of the accident. The circumstances of the situation will determine whether someone files a personal injury claim or a workers’ compensation claim.
The primary determining factors between whether you have a workers’ compensation case or a personal injury case are liability and the relationship between the injured party and the party liable for the accident that caused the injury.
Suppose an employee is injured while on the job, and their injury is caused by negligence on the part of their employer. In that case, they will file a workers’ compensation claim and receive compensation through workers’ comp benefits. All other accident-related injury cases, where liability does not lie with the injured party’s employer, will typically require filing a personal injury claim in civil court.
That said, there are some situations in which an employee is injured at work, but the fault of the injury/accident lies with a third party and not their employer. When this happens, the injured party may have the option to file a personal injury claim instead of workers’ compensation.
In some complicated cases, an injured party may need to pursue both a workers’ compensation claim and a personal injury claim. This happens in cases where multiple parties are found liable for the accident which caused the injuries, including the injured victim’s employer.
Can I Seek Compensation with a Workers’ Comp Claim?
Yes, the purpose of filing a workers’ compensation claim is to recover damages associated with your workplace injury. The state of Idaho requires employers (or their insurance companies) to provide workers’ compensation benefits.
With a workers’ compensation claim, you may be able to recover compensation for the following:
- Medical expenses
- Permanent impairment benefits
- Vocational rehabilitation
Basic workers’ compensation benefits in Idaho are typically 67% of your average weekly wage, calculated against Idaho’s average state wage. According to the Idaho Industrial Commission (IIC), workers do not receive benefits for the first five days they are off work due to an injury, excepting cases in which the injury requires overnight hospitalization, or in situations where the time lost exceeds 14 days.
While some workers’ compensation claims result in the injured party receiving regular workers’ compensation benefits payments (often monthly), other cases are resolved through a lump sum settlement.
Note: Another key difference between a personal injury claim and a workers’ compensation claim is that those who file a workers’ compensation claim are barred from recovering damages associated with pain and suffering. However, with a personal injury claim, you can seek compensation for any/all damages related to your accident, including pain and suffering.
Review our blog here for more information on the distinctions between workers’ compensation and personal injury.
What Are the Most Common Workers’ Compensation Claims?
Workplace accidents and injuries can happen in any environment. While some industries carry a greater risk of suffering a catastrophic injury on the job, accidents and injuries can occur in seemingly “safe” workplaces, like quiet offices or retail spaces. Consequently, employers and employees alike should make workplace safety a priority.
Some of the most common workplace injuries include:
- Sprains and strains
- Eye injuries
- Broken bones
- Neck and back injuries
Repetitive stress injuries are also incredibly common. These may also be referred to as cumulative or continuous trauma injuries. These injuries occur due to the stress of a repeated task done consistently over a long period, such as typing. Carpal tunnel syndrome is one of the most common repetitive stress injuries and refers to when the nerves in the wrist are compressed. This can lead to numbness and pain.
Other examples of workplace injuries can include:
- Dog bites and other animal-related injuries
- Exposure to harmful environments
- Toxic chemical exposure
- Violence-related injuries
What About Serious Illnesses, Like Cancer?
Even serious illnesses, such as cancer caused by extended exposure to cancer-causing substances, can be classified as workplace injuries. Like repetitive stress injuries, these types of injuries are typically cumulative in nature (as opposed to acute injuries) and occur after an extended period. These cases can be incredibly challenging as proving causation and liability is very involved.
If you are in a situation where you believe your or your loved one’s serious illness occurred due to workplace exposure, reach out to our personal injury team to discuss your options.
Do I Really Need an Attorney?
Calculating workers’ compensation benefits can be a complicated process, and every case is different. Additionally, because the process is so complex, mistakes are easy to make and can risk your ability to receive the full compensation you are entitled to. Therefore, it is incredibly important that you work with a skilled attorney when filing a workers’ comp claim.
The benefits of working with an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer include:
- Knowledgeable guidance from a professional well-versed in Idaho workers’ compensation laws
- Detailed management of the entire claims process
- Reliable representation when dealing with insurance companies, health care providers, etc.
- Strong support when faced with a worker’s compensation denial or when you need to file an appeal
- Dedicated advocacy during settlement negotiations
At May, Rammell & Wells, we understand how devastating a workplace injury can be. Our attorneys have years of experience representing Idaho workers in workers’ comp claims, and we can use this experience to help you.