Home » How Workers’ Compensation and Personal Injury Claims Differ in California

How Workers’ Compensation and Personal Injury Claims Differ in California

Suffering an injury at work can leave you with a number of debilitating consequences to contend with. You might be impacted physically, emotionally, mentally, and financially – all at once. Near the top of your list of concerns may be how you will be compensated as you recover and heal from the accident.

Fortunately, you likely have options available through California law. One possibility is filing a workers’ compensation claim, and another is filing a personal injury claim. Read on to learn about how these two types of claims differ so that you can assert your legal rights after a workplace injury.

Workers’ Compensation Claims

One place to turn for financial support after a workplace injury is California’s workers’ compensation system. Per California law, every employer in the state with at least one employee is required to provide workers’ comp benefits. Generally speaking, you can file a workers’ comp claim regardless of whose fault the accident was.

Available benefits through a workers’ compensation claim include:

  • Medical care
  • Temporary disability 
  • Permanent disability
  • Supplemental job displacement 
  • Death benefits

The types of benefit(s) you are eligible for will depend on the nature of your injury and the impact it will have on you going forward. You must notify your employer of your injury within 30 days to ensure you receive the benefits you’re entitled to.

Personal Injury Claims

One major tradeoff of the workers’ compensation system is that, unless a rare exception applies, you won’t be able to file a lawsuit against your employer after a workplace injury. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re barred from pursuing a personal injury claim.

If there is a third party who is responsible for your injury, you may be able to file a claim against them for additional compensation. For instance, if you were involved in a car accident through the course of your work, you might be able to pursue a claim against the at-fault driver.

Through this third-party personal injury claim, you can recover both economic and non-economic damages – compensation that goes far beyond what you can receive through workers’ compensation. Examples of economic and non-economic damages include:

  • Lost wages
  • Medical bills, current and future
  • Pain and suffering
  • Mental conditions such as PTSD and depression
  • Rehabilitation and therapy
  • Emotional distress
  • Loss of quality of life
  • Decreased earning capacity
  • Childcare costs
  • Miscellaneous out-of-pocket expenses
  • Disfigurement and scarring

In cases involving extreme conduct from the at-fault party, you may be able to recover punitive damages as well. However, these damages are meant to “punish” the defendant for their behavior and are rarely awarded. 

An Experienced Attorney Can Help You Determine Your Legal Options

Understanding your legal rights is critical after sustaining an injury at work. While workers’ compensation is almost certainly an option you can utilize, it can only provide limited benefits. If you can find a third party to hold liable, you’ll be able to pursue a more lucrative personal injury claim that can more thoroughly compensate you for your losses.

An experienced workplace accident attorney in California can help you every step of the way. If you hire a lawyer, you can take the time you need to focus on your health and well-being. In the meantime, your attorney can evaluate your best legal course of action and handle your claim(s) on your behalf. 
Since most lawyers in this area of the law offer free initial consultations, it’s likely worth your time to set up a time to meet. Note, too, that most workplace accident lawyers work on a contingency fee basis – meaning that they only get paid if they obtain compensation for you.

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