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Michael J. Doyle, Attorney At Law Michael J. Doyle, Attorney At Law
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What’s the Difference Between a Personal Injury Claim & Workers' Comp?

If you have been injured in an accident caused by another party’s negligence or wrongdoing, you may consider filing a personal injury claim to recover the money you were forced to spend on medical expenses. But what if you were injured at work? Should you file a personal injury claim or for workers’ compensation benefits? Our Albuquerque attorney explains the key differences between personal injury and worker’s comp claims.

Fault vs. No Fault

Probably the most significant difference between personal injury cases and workers’ compensation claims lies with fault.

When you file a personal injury claim, an individual or company must be identified as and proven to be the liable party in order for you to recover damages. Whether you have been hurt in a car accident or because of a dog bite, someone’s negligence must have caused your injury. This can be another motorist who was speeding or a pet owner who refused to leash their dog, for instance. You can only be compensated if someone else did something wrong; if you caused your own accident, you’re out of luck.

Workers’ comp claims, however, have nothing to do with fault. Workers’ comp is a system that was established to pay benefits to injured employees regardless of who or what caused their accident. You don’t need to prove anyone did anything wrong to receive compensation, and you can still receive benefits even if you were at fault for the accident.

However, if you were injured at work due to the negligence of a third party—as in, an individual or company besides your employer—you may be able to file a personal injury claim against them. We recommend consulting with an attorney if you are not sure which route is best for you.

Damages for Pain and Suffering

Another significant difference between the two involves just compensation for pain and suffering. Pain and suffering is a legal term representing the physical and emotional stress caused by an injury.

In a personal injury case, you are entitled to receive compensation for any damages you have suffered, from medical bills to emotional anguish. These are determined by you (and your attorney if you hire one) based on your individual experience.

However, in a workers’ comp case, your damages are limited only to weekly compensation, permanent disability benefits, medical expenses, and vocational rehabilitation. These have been preestablished by workers’ compensation laws to protect both employers from being sued and employees from financial hardship in the wake of an injury.

There are occasional exceptions, however. For instance, you may be able to sue your employer for pain and suffering and additional damages if they intentionally caused your injury. We suggest consulting a workers’ compensation attorney and/or a personal injury attorney about your specific case to ensure you choose the path that’s right for you.

Have you been injured in an accident, at work or elsewhere? Our Albuquerque attorney Michael J. Doyle represents clients in both personal injury and workers’ comp cases throughout New Mexico. Contact us today to set up a free case evaluation.