Here in Alabama, when you’re injured on the job, workers’ compensation benefits help take care of your medical bills and lost wages if you need time off work to recover. The great thing about workers’ compensation is that it’s a no-fault system – you don’t have to show that anyone or anything caused your injury. You just have to prove you have an injury that occurred at work and you should be all set.
However, one thing workers’ compensation doesn’t cover is pain and suffering. Personal injury claims, on the other hand, do account for pain and suffering. How do you know when you should file for workers’ compensation and when you should file a personal injury action? Or can you actually do both? Today’s blog will break it all down.
A quick overview of workers’ compensation
Workers’ compensation is a system benefiting both employers and employees. If a worker is injured within the scope of their job, their employer provides workers’ comp insurance to pay for medical expenses and wage loss. In return, the employee agrees not to sue their employer for their injuries. Workers’ compensation also provides other benefits, including:
- Death, including burial expenses, and a benefit payment to the deceased’s dependent’s or estate
- Permanent disability benefits
- Permanent partial disability benefits
- Temporary total disability benefits
- Temporary partial disability benefits
It’s important you follow certain processes and meet specific deadlines for a workers’ compensation claim, otherwise you may find your claim denied. An experienced Huntsville attorney can help you file a claim.
What worker’s compensation doesn’t cover
Although workers’ comp claims provide all the benefits listed above, there are a few situations where it may not be enough, or may not be available.
First, workers’ compensation benefits don’t provide damages for pain and suffering. The state also puts a cap on workers’ comp benefits. In cases of severe or catastrophic injury, this amount of compensation may simply not be enough to meet your physical and emotional needs. Further, in cases of gross and extreme negligence, workers’ compensation does not award punitive damages.
Second, some workers may not be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. If you are a contractor, temporary employee, or other type of worker, workers’ comp may not be available to you. In cases like these, if another person or party caused your injury, you’ll likely need to file a personal injury claim instead. Our attorneys can provide more guidance on this.
Can I file both claims at the same time?
In some cases, yes, you can. If your injury was caused by the negligence of a third party, you’re eligible to file both a workers’ compensation and a personal injury claim. By “third party,” we mean any party with the exception of your employer and your co-workers.
Here are a few examples of a work injury caused by a third party:
- You’re making deliveries for your job when a distracted driver runs a red light and hits your car, causing you serious injuries that leave you out of work for months. In a case like this, you’d be able to claim worker’s compensation (because you were on the job at the time) and a personal injury lawsuit (because you were injured by a negligent third party).
- You’re using a machine at work, and a defective piece breaks off, injuring your eye. You’d be eligible for workers’ comp benefits as well as a potential product liability claim against the manufacturer of the defective machine.
In rare cases, you can bring a case against a co-worker, but only if you were injured by their “willful conduct.” Under Alabama Workers’ Compensation Code, willful conduct includes:
- Intentional acts to injure the employee
- Willful and intentional removal of a safety guard or device
- Intoxication of an employee causing the injury
- Willful and intentional violation of a safety rule
Our injury attorneys can help you work through these sometimes-difficult cases.
How do I prove liability in my third-party injury case?
One of the advantages of workers’ compensation is that you don’t have to prove liability. With a third-party personal injury case, you do, which means you’ll need to show that this person or party was at fault for your accident and injuries. This means proving four things: duty of care, breach of duty, causation, and damages.
- Duty of care means that the person or party who caused your injury owed you a duty of care. This could include a drunk driver who hit you, a manufacturer that created a defective product, or an architect who designed an unsafe building. Under the theory of liability, they have a duty to keep others safe.
- Breach of duty, which means that the person failed in their duty of care through negligence, recklessness, or inaction.
- Causation means that the breach of duty caused your injuries.
- Finally, damages are the losses sustained from those injuries, like your medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other expenses.
Remember, there are different processes for filing a workers’ compensation claim and filing a third-party claim. Our attorneys can help you with both. The lawyers at Martin & Helms have been assisting clients for over 20 years, and we can put our experience to work for you.
If you were injured on the job and are unsure about how to file a claim for compensation, talk to our Huntsville attorneys today. We want to ensure you secure all the benefits to which you’re entitled, and have access to the resources you need to recover as much as possible from your injuries. To schedule a consultation to discuss your case, call us at 256-539-1990 or complete our contact form. We also have offices in Decatur, and proudly serve clients in Athens, Madison, and throughout North Alabama.