Workers’ compensation cases and personal injury cases have a lot in common. Both case types cover your medical bills. Both case types address lost wages during an injury-related disability.
Yet there are significant differences between the two case types that you should be aware of.
First, let’s talk about the types of injuries covered by each type of case.
A personal injury case only covers injuries caused by a negligent party. So it will cover the driver who struck you, the landlord who failed to fix a broken stair railing or the manufacturer who burned you by releasing an unsafe product. It may cover some workplace injuries if the negligent party wasn’t your employer. It doesn’t cover every accident that ever happens. If no negligent party exists, there’s no case.
A workers’ compensation case only covers work-related injuries taken on the job. Workers’ compensation ignores issues of liability or fault. The injury could be your fault, and you’d still be fully covered, with a few exceptions, such as horseplay. Employers may argue about whether an injury counts as a workplace injury, or whether you “really” count as an employee, but liability issues will not arise.
A personal injury case covers 100% of past lost wages, though it might not do so immediately. It depends on how long it takes to settle the case. If you’ve lost the ability to work, your lawyer can press for loss of earning capacity compensation as well.
A workers’ compensation case pays just ⅔ of your average weekly wage for a 52-week period immediately prior to the date of the accident. Benefits start 18 days after the onset of the disability and are paid bi-weekly. Lost wages aren’t paid if you lost less than one week of time to your injury.
Workers’ compensation will pay for the duration of your injury or illness and stop when the injury or illness is healed and you can return to work. Some people, of course, never return to work. These are the cases in which workers’ compensation tends to fight the hardest, as those insurance companies do not want to pay long-term benefits.
The Issue of Pain and Suffering
A personal injury case usually includes compensation for pain and suffering. There is no hard and fast guide for the amount of pain and suffering that might be paid, but it usually boils down to some sort of multiplier between 1 and 5. The multiplier is applied to your economic losses. So if you have $100,000 in medical bills and lost wages, and a pain and suffering multiplier of 2, you’d get an additional $200,000 for a total of $300,000.
Workers’ compensation does not address pain and suffering. This was part of the “great bargain” that birthed the program. Employers agreed to stop quibbling about liability if employees agreed to ignore the issue of pain and suffering. It’s not a perfect system, but it does mean that injured people on the job often get paid faster.
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Workers’ compensation cases can get complicated. We’ve won hundreds of millions of dollars for injured New Yorkers.
If your employer is violating the law or your workers’ compensation insurance company is delaying or denying coverage, call us to schedule a free consultation. We can help.