Injured on the Job – Should You File a Workers’ Compensation Claim or a Personal Injury Lawsuit?
An injury on the job can put your family and financial future at risk. In some cases, it may even lead to permanent disability and long-lived pain and suffering. As such, it is only right that you ensure you receive compensation through any and all viable avenues. The problem, unfortunately, is knowing which one to pursue. If you have been injured at work, the following information can help you determine whether you should file a workers’ compensation claim or a personal injury claim, and how you can best protect your interests in either case.
Long ago, employers turned to the government for relief from lawsuits being brought against them by injured employees. They claimed these injury suits made it difficult to conduct business, and that they would certainly go under if something did not change. Laws were passed, and workers’ compensation was born (and interestingly enough, first started out in Wisconsin).
A form of insurance – not a lawsuit – workers’ compensation was set up as a sort of compromise (if you can really call it that). Injured workers could have their medical bills paid and could receive some compensation for their lost wages, as long as they were able prove that the injury was sustained while at work, or because of their job. They no longer had to go through a lengthy court process where they were burdened with proving employer negligence, but they also gave up their right to pursue punitive damages and compensation for pain and suffering.
In turn, employers agreed to carry the insurance to protect themselves, and their employees, should an injury occur. (Note: Although most employers are required to carry workers’ compensation, there are a few exceptions.) Plus, employers no longer had to deal with those pesky lawsuits (except in certain states where employees can still sue for gross negligence or intentional harm caused by their employer). They could better manage the cost of work injuries and ensure sustainability, but things got a little misconstrued along the way. In the grand scheme of things, employers ended up winning out, and workers are left to fight for the compensation that should be rightfully theirs.
Personal Injury Lawsuit
This is where things get a little confusing. Although most employees have (involuntarily) given up their right to pursue a lawsuit against their employer, they may still be able to pursue a personal injury lawsuit against another party. If, for example, they are injured by defective equipment at work, they may be able to seek damages from the third party manufacturer of that equipment. Alternatively, if they are injured on the premises because of property owner negligence (provided that the owner is not their employer), they may be able to pursue damages through a premises liability lawsuit (another type of personal injury lawsuit).
The main issue here is that, unlike workers’ compensation, where fault is irrelevant, a personal injury lawsuit requires that the employee prove negligence was a factor in their injury. This can be an onerous task in any personal injury lawsuit, but it is especially difficult in workplace injury lawsuits. Further complicating matters is the sometimes hazy area between employer negligence and third party negligence, which can make it difficult to determine who is truly responsible for the injury. To protect their interests, and to ensure all viable avenues are pursued, injured employees should seek assistance from an experienced attorney who understands both personal injury law and workers’ compensation laws.
Contact Our Seasoned Appleton Personal Injury Attorneys
At Herrling Clark Law Firm, Ltd., we understand the devastating effect that a work injury can have on your life, and the life of your family. Dedicated to your best interests, we handle both workers’ compensation claims and workplace injuries that involve third party negligence that may result in a personal injury lawsuit. Our experienced Appleton, WI personal injury lawyers will carefully examine your case to determine any and all viable options for your unique situation. We will aggressively pursue the most compensation. Contact us at 920-739-7366 for your consultation today.