Understanding the Differences between Personal Injury and Workers’ Compensation

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In general, if you’re injured due to another person or entity’s negligence, you’re entitled to compensation—but the laws, rules, and regulations that govern injury-related lawsuits can be complex. Depending on factors like what you were doing when you were injured and who seems to be responsible for the injury, your claim could be litigated as a personal injury, medical malpractice, or workers’ compensation lawsuit.

These broad categories of legal claims have many similarities, but also some key differences that can affect how each type of claim proceeds.

Personal Injury

Personal injury lawsuits involve three primary elements: a duty owed, a breach of that duty, and damages (like physical injury or financial losses) that stem from this breach. Many of the most common personal injury lawsuits stem from:

  • Car accidents
  • Dog bites
  • Slip-and-fall accidents
  • Medical malpractice
  • Libel and slander; and
  • Intentional torts like assault, battery, or domestic battery.

If you’re able to prove each of the three elements (duty, breach, and damages) against the defendant or defendants, you’ll be able to petition the court for compensatory and punitive damages.

Workers’ Compensation

Workers’ compensation lawsuits usually involve the same types of injuries seen in personal injury lawsuits. However, these claims exclusively involve injuries that occurred at work or within the scope of your job duties. For example, being hurt in a car crash while commuting to work will usually be a personal injury lawsuit; being hurt in a car crash while driving from one work site to another could be a workers’ comp claim instead, or the potential that it could be both claims, depending on the specific circumstances of the crash.

Workers’ compensation claims don’t require the same level of negligence that’s usually seen in personal injury claims. Often, the employer may not have been able to prevent the circumstances that led to the work-related injury. But because it’s important for employees who were injured at work to be able to recover at home without worrying about medical bills and lost wages, the Florida government requires most employers to carry insurance coverage to help pay these expenses.

Workers’ comp coverage also works as a type of “claim preclusion” to personal injury lawsuits. This means that you usually can’t file a personal injury lawsuit against your employer for work-related injuries unless you’ve already gone through the workers’ compensation process, or your employer doesn’t (or isn’t required to) have workers’ compensation coverage.

If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident, contact the experienced and knowledgeable attorneys at Ginnis & Krathen, P.A today. We can evaluate your claim and provide you with the information needed to go forward.

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