Laws can be extremely complex and difficult to understand for the average person, especially when they are injured and looking for justice. This is why a Bluffton workers compensation lawyer at our firm often has to start by explaining to an injured worker why they cannot just sue their employer for damages.
So today we will explore the differences between the two compensation systems and how they impact your case.
Legal Recourse: the Available Options
The first significant difference between workers compensation and personal injury cases is the range of legal options. A person who suffered injuries due to someone’s negligence can opt to file a claim against the at-fault party’s insurance company or directly file a lawsuit against the negligent person.
If you suffered an accident in the workplace, filing a workers compensation claim is usually your only legal recourse. The workers comp system appeared all over the US with the precise purpose of protecting employers from numerous lawsuits, while ensuring that injured workers get compensation.
Proving Fault: a Crucial Difference Between the Two Systems
Now, let us move to one of the major aspects of winning a case: proving the negligent party’s fault. In personal injury law, this is a must. Since South Carolina uses a modified comparative negligence principle, a plaintiff must prove that they were 50% or less at fault to have the right to seek damages. The other party should be more than 50% at fault to be held liable for damages.
However, fault is not an element assessed in a workers compensation claim. Thus, you could be even 100% at fault for your accident, and you would still qualify for damages. What your Bluffton workers comp attorney must prove to win your claim is that:
- The accident happened while you were on the clock (not during the lunch break or while traveling to or from work)
- You were performing an activity within your scope of employment when you got injured
- You were not under the influence of alcohol or drugs when the accident happened.
Available Damages vs Workers Comp Benefits
Finally, you may collect different types of damages in each instance. Personal injury victims may seek compensation for:
- Economic damages: all costs, expenses, and financial losses directly related to the accident they suffered
- Non-economic damages: pain and suffering, loss of quality of life, mental anguish, emotional trauma, and loss of consortium
- Punitive damages: awarded by the jury at the end of a lawsuit, if the defendant acted with gross negligence, malice, or intent in causing the accident.
The benefits available to an injured worker when their workers compensation claim is approved are:
- Coverage of all medical costs, under the care of a doctor appointed by the insurance company
- Wage replacement for two-thirds of the worker’s weekly wages.
Death benefits are payable to the family of a deceased worker and consist of $2,500 for funeral costs and two-thirds of the worker’s wages for up to 500 weeks.
Compensation for pain and suffering is not covered by workers compensation benefits.
Is It Possible to File a Workers Compensation and Personal Injury Claim at the Same Time?
There are some specific situations when an injured worker has both legal options available. These are cases when you were on the clock, doing activities within your scope of employment and you were injured through a third party’s fault.
In this situation, you have the right to file a workers comp claim for the workplace accident and pursue the negligent party for economic and non-economic damages. The latter legal avenue is called a third-party claim.
How Third-Party Claims Operate in a Workers Compensation Case
Let us imagine this scenario: you are employed by a courier company to make home deliveries. As you are driving to a client’s home to deliver their order, a drunk driver hits you and you suffer injuries.
In this case, your employer’s workers compensation insurer has to pay for your medical care and wage replacement. At the same time, you can file a personal injury claim against the drunk driver, demanding compensation for the remainder of your damages, including pain and suffering.
Discuss Your Case With a Skilled Bluffton Workers Comp Lawyer!
If you were injured at work, you have the right to file a workers compensation claim, but cannot sue your employer in most cases. While the reasoning may be complex, what you need to know is that you will not be left with mounting medical care debt and no wages until you recover.
An experienced Bluffton workers comp lawyer at our firm will make sure that you receive your rightful benefits. We encourage you to gather all your available evidence and bring it to a skilled attorney at McDougall Law Firm, LLC.