What a personal injury suit might cover that workers' comp won't

It doesn't matter what you do for a living: Everybody is at risk of suffering an injury while on the job. While some professions, such as construction, may present more of an obvious risk, any employer in Alabama with at least five employees must have workers' compensation insurance in the event of a workplace injury.

While workers' compensation may provide employees some peace of mind, there are limits to what it covers. In some cases, an injured worker may also want to consider filing a personal injury lawsuit. So what's the difference, exactly, and when might that be an option?

What workers’ compensation covers

Workers’ compensation provides benefits to workers that become injured while in the course of doing their job. What workers’ compensation covers is clearly defined, limited to things such as:

  • Weekly compensation, up to about two-thirds of their average pay
  • “Reasonably necessary” medical, surgical and chiropractic treatment
  • Medicines and medical supplies

There may also be time limits, depending on the nature of the injury. A permanent partial body injury, for example, can result in compensation payments for a maximum of 300 weeks.

A personal injury lawsuit can offer other opportunities for compensation. It may account for pain and suffering, an aspect of injury that workers’ compensation does not pay for. A personal injury lawsuit might also be able to consider more long-term health needs and costs, future lost wages and emotional distress.

A personal injury lawsuit requires negligence

Workers’ compensation insurance generally covers on-the-job injuries regardless of who was at fault. (There are exceptions to this, including if a worker was intoxicated, intentionally tried to hurt themselves or someone else, didn’t follow safety procedures, or there was “willful misconduct.”)

In a personal injury claim, an injured worker will need to show someone or something was at fault other than the employer, and that the negligence resulted in the person being hurt. This involves a third-party.

For example, if a piece of equipment you use on the job failed because of a defect and led to a serious injury, you may be able to sue the company that makes the equipment. Or maybe you were hit by a distracted driver while making deliveries. Those situations may open the door for a personal injury lawsuit.

Understanding the totality of the injury and its impact on your life is key, as is determining who – if anyone – may be at fault for what happened. Whatever the case it’s important to know all of your options.

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