Employees injured in the workplace have the right to file personal injury or workers’ compensation claims. There is a misconception that the two are the same. 

However, the law considers them completely separate. They differ for multiple reasons. 

With workers’ compensation you do not have to prove fault

Personal injury lawsuits require you to prove a party is at fault for the suffering incurred. With a workers’ compensation petition, this is not the case. The plaintiff/filer does not have to show that the employer was responsible or negligent. This is helpful in incidents like freak accidents where it is impossible to assign blame. 

Workers’ compensation excludes certain kinds of restitution

However, regulations generally ban the pursuit of punitive/exemplary damages and “pain and suffering” redress when trying to obtain workers’ recompense. Usually it awards permanent disability benefits, medical bills and lost wages. The former are additions meant to punish the liable party. The latter encompasses both physical and mental distress, discomfort, anguish and pain caused by an injury. California is special in that it does allow benefits for emotional distress in some cases. 

Workers’ compensation pays out differently

It is often faster to receive compensation from workers’ compensation than a personal injury lawsuit. Personal injury lawsuits also usually pay out in lump sums. A split payment method over time is commonly employed for workers’ compensation benefits. Workers’ compensation also has the advantage of (almost always) paying out. On the other hand, personal injury suits may result in zero payout if lost. 

Personal injury cases and workers’ compensation claims actually block each other, as suing is not permitted while claiming workers’ compensation. By filing one you forfeit the right to the other.