People who are injured at work have a right to file a claim for workers’ compensation. However, some injured workers are hesitant to file a workers’ compensation claim because they think that doing so is tantamount to filing a lawsuit against their employer. Allow us to lay this myth to rest. Filing a claim for workers’ compensation benefits is not the same as filing a lawsuit against your employer. The attorneys at the Law Offices of Craig L. Cook can help you understand the difference between filing a claim for workers’ compensation and filing a personal injury lawsuit.
How Does a Workers’ Compensation Claim Differ from a Personal Injury Lawsuit?
Workers’ compensation coverage is meant to provide benefits to workers who have been injured without them having to prove fault. By contrast, to prevail in a personal injury case, an injured victim must prove that the defendant was at fault in causing the accident. A workers’ compensation claim is not based on fault and is not the same as filing a lawsuit against your employer.
In Arkansas, employers are required to either purchase workers’ compensation insurance coverage or to provide proof to the state that they have the financial ability to pay if their workers are injured on the job under Ark. Code § 11-9-404. Similarly, most employers in Oklahoma are also required to carry workers’ compensation coverage for their workers under the Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation Act.
In exchange for having workers’ compensation available for workers, employers are immune from liability in personal injury lawsuits for workplace accidents. Employees also do not have to prove negligence, meaning that a worker’s compensation case might be easier to win than a personal injury claim. People who file claims for workers’ compensation benefits also receive their benefits immediately instead of waiting for months or years for a personal injury case to be resolved.
Damages in a Workers’ Compensation Claim vs. a Personal Injury Claim
Through a workers’ compensation claim, an injured worker can recover compensation for his or her medical expenses, rehabilitation costs, and disability benefits if he or she is disabled and unable to return to work either temporarily or permanently.
When a worker is killed in an accident, the victim’s family members may also recover a portion of their loved one’s previous income through death benefits along with the reasonable costs of their funeral and burial expenses. However, workers’ compensation claims do not provide victims the right to recover damages for their noneconomic losses, including pain and suffering damages.
What Happens If an Employer Fails to Carry Workers’ Compensation Insurance?
If an employer that is required to carry workers’ compensation insurance fails to carry or maintain its coverage, an injured worker can file a lawsuit against the employer. When this happens, a worker may file a negligence claim against the employer and seek damages for both his or her economic and noneconomic losses. When a worker files a negligence lawsuit against his or her employer that does not have adequate workers’ compensation coverage, he or she will have to prove fault.
Keep in mind that people who work as independent contractors are not considered to be employees. This means that they are not covered by a company’s workers’ compensation insurance coverage. When an independent contractor is injured on the job because of the negligence of the company or one of its workers, the independent contractor can file a lawsuit against the company for his or her injuries and losses.
In some cases, an injured worker may file a workers’ compensation claim with his or her employer’s insurance carrier while simultaneously filing a personal injury claim against a negligent third party that contributed to or is responsible for the worker’s injuries. For example, if a construction worker is injured while working on a construction site by an employee of a different subcontractor, the worker can file a claim for worker’s compensation benefits with his or her employer and a third-party lawsuit against the other subcontracting company.
By filing a personal injury lawsuit and a claim for workers’ compensation benefits, an injured worker might recover more damages than he or she could with a workers’ compensation claim alone.
Talk to the Attorneys at the Law Offices of Craig L. Cook
If you have suffered injuries at work, you should not hesitate to file a claim for workers’ compensation benefits. Your employer carries this type of insurance to provide for workers who are injured at work. For help, contact the Law Offices of Craig L. Cook by calling 479-783-8000.