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The Difference Between Workers’ Compensation and Personal Injury in California

Whether your job involves sitting at a desk or is a more physical occupation like construction, on-the-job injuries can have devastating long-term consequences for your health and your finances. Often, workplace accidents cause injuries that need extensive medical attention. and prolonged inability to work. In some cases, you may be unable to return to the same type of job because of your injuries, resulting in a significant decrease in your income.

The choice between filing a workers’ compensation claim or a personal injury lawsuit depends on the unique circumstances of your case. Be aware that if you receive workers’ compensation, you give up your right to file a personal injury lawsuit in civil court.

There are several differences between workers’ compensation and a personal injury lawsuit. The biggest difference is whether you will have to prove negligence. Almost all employees injured on the job are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits by law.

However, to have a successful personal injury lawsuit you must be able to prove that someone (either your employer or the manufacturer of the equipment you were using) was negligent and that their negligence was the direct cause of your injury.

Workers’ Compensation In California

Workers’ compensation has several big advantages.

First, if your employer is a private company, they must provide workers’ compensation to all employees under state law. The exception is federal employees who are instead covered under federal workers’ compensation. Almost all injured employees are eligible for benefits if they were injured on the job.

Second, unlike a personal injury lawsuit, the employee is not required to prove that the employer or another third-party was negligent. Also, workers’ compensation benefits are timely and set-in-stone so the employee knows for certain what benefits they will receive and when.

But, there are also some drawbacks to workers’ compensation.

An employee who receives workers’ compensation benefits can only get certain benefits. An injured worker can only get the amount of compensation that is covered by workers’ compensation and oftentimes this amount is not sufficient to cover lost wages, loss of earning capacity, and other damages. You are also unable to receive damages for pain and suffering and other punitive damages.

The compensation you are entitled to includes:

  • Medical bills
  • Temporary and permanent disability payments
  • Money for retraining you for another job if your injuries prevent you from returning to your prior position
  • Death benefits

It’s also important to note that under workers’ compensation, an injured employee only has one year in which to file a claim.

Personal Injury Lawsuits In California

The biggest benefit of a personal injury lawsuit is that you can receive a broader range of compensation. These include pain and suffering, loss of consortium, wrongful death and other damages. The employee also has twice as long to file compared to a workers’ compensation claim.

However, to recover in a personal injury lawsuit you must be able to prove negligence. Also, the lawsuit process takes time and you will not receive any compensation until the lawsuit is complete.

There are only five situations in which an employee can file a personal injury lawsuit against their employer for an on-the-job injury:

  1. The employer doesn’t have workers’ compensation coverage at the time of the accident;
  2. The employee was injured by an employer-made product but was not acting as an employee at the time of the accident (this is also known as “dual capacity”);
  3. The employee was injured by a power press machine;
  4. The cause of the employee’s injuries was a physical attack by the employer; or
  5. The employer fraudulently conceals something that causes or aggravates the injury.

If your injury was a result of a defective product that was not made by your employer, you can file a lawsuit against the manufacturer of the equipment. Defective product lawsuits have their own rules and limitations.

Common Workplace Injuries

Some jobs are more dangerous than others, but workplace accidents can happen to anyone. The most common workplace injuries include:

Any workplace injury should be taken seriously and appropriate action taken so that you don’t forfeit your rights for benefits or personal injury damages.

What To Do If You’ve Been Injured On The Job

If you’ve been injured on the job, it’s important to notify your supervisor or other appropriate management team member of your injuries as soon as possible. Remember, if you wait longer than 30 days to report your injury, you could lose your right to receive workers’ compensation benefits.

It’s also important to receive medical care as soon as possible after your injury. Whether for a workers’ compensation claim or a personal injury lawsuit, prompt medical attention will give you a diagnosis of your injury and help prove that your injury was a direct result of an on-the-job accident.

Lastly, if you’ve been injured on the job it’s important to seek the advice of an experienced California workplace injury attorney. Has your workers’ compensation claim has been denied or you believe that your employer may have been negligent? If so, a lawyer can help you fight your workers’ compensation denial or start the personal injury lawsuit process. This way you can seek compensation for your injuries through civil court.

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