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Differences Between Personal Injury and Workers Compensation

Many people injured at work don’t know whether they need a workers’ compensation attorney or personal injury lawyer. Sometimes workers’ comp is the exclusive remedy. Other times, injury victims can only pursue a personal injury lawsuit. And occasionally, both remedies apply. This articles explores the relationship between a worker comp claim and a personal injury lawsuit.

When Does a Work Comp Claim Exist?

California recognizes two scenarios that result in workplace injuries: specific injury and cumulative trauma. Whether they trigger the workers compensation benefits depends on whether a specific job task caused the injury or repetitive job tasks caused the cumulative trauma.

California Labor Code defines specific injury as “occurring as the result of one incident or exposure which causes disability or need for medical treatment. As long as the single incident injury occurs while someone is working or during the course of their employment, then the workers’ compensation claim is triggered. For example, someone who slips and falls at work can file a work comp claim as a specific injury.

Besides specific injury claims, the workers’ compensation system also recognizes cumulative trauma injuries.The California Labor Code defines cumulative trauma injuries, also known as CT claims. The statute states: “occurring as repetitive mentally or physically traumatic activities extending over a period of time, the combined effect of which causes any disability or need for medical treatment.” These injuries usually arise after months or years of repetitive use of a body part. The repetitive use results in injuries.

When Does a Personal Injury Claim Exist?

California has general negligence principles that compensate injury victims. Personal injury claims require a negligent third party. For personal injury claims, it is irrelevant whether a injured person suffered their injuries while working. Instead, what matters is whether someone’s negligence caused the injury. For example, if a vehicle strikes a pedestrian while running a red light, then the pedestrian has a personal injury claim against the vehicle. This is because failing to stop at the stop light results in negligence.

When Does a Work Comp Claim Also Include A Personal Injury Claim?

Although there are two different legal processes for injury victims to recover benefits, both can apply under certain circumstances. This occurs when a third party injures a person while working. For example, imagine an instance when a journeyman carpenter lays concrete with a boom pump and the boom pump explodes because the operator did not properly control the flow of the concrete. Under this scenario, the injured worker can recover worker compensation benefits because he was injured while on the job. Additionally, the worker can seek a third party personal injury claim against the boom pump operator (and his/her employer). This personal injury claim occurs because the third party’s negligence caused the injuries.

Does Fault Matter: Differences Between Personal Injury and Workers Compensation

Fault carries different significance between the workman comp system and the personal injury system. Fault does not matter under the Workers’ Compensation system. Yet, fault does matter in personal injury claims.

The Worker Compensation system provides injury benefits to an injured worker. It does not matter who caused the injury in worker comp claims. For example, if a construction worker who cuts his hand while using an electric saw, then his injuries would likely be due to his own fault. But the workplace accident is still covered under the workers’ compensation system.

Contrastingly, fault does matter for personal injury claims. For third party liability claims, the injured person must establish that the third party caused the injury. Injury victims cannot recover if the injury is solely due to their own fault

What Should Injured Workers Do?

The legal process alone is confusing. However, it can be particularly confusing for injured workers because of the different available processes. But injured workers do not necessarily have to figure the process on their own. Instead, they can rely on attorneys to guide them through the process.

A personal injury or workers’ compensation attorney can analyze the specific facts surrounding the injuries. This analysis helps determine whether the claim includes personal injury and/or work comp. Therefore, anyone who has been injured while working should consult an attorney so that the lawyer can provide proper legal guidance.

Contact Anderson Franco, Esq.

Anderson Franco is an award-winning California attorney.  He has successfully represented personal injury claims and worker compensation claims. Anderson Franco has litigated several $1,000,000+ injury claims throughout California.

Accident or injury victims may be able to recover money to compensate for their injuries. Contact Anderson Franco for a personal injury consultation.