Injured at Work: Personal Injury at the Workplace vs. Workers’ Compensation ClaimsTrusted Content
Legally reviewed by:Erik Abrahamson, J.D. May 29, 2020
Injured at your workplace? This article will help you understand the factors that most impact the potential claim to file for your injuries and damages.
According to the National Safety Council, there is a personal injury at the workplace every 7 seconds. The leading causes of workplace injuries are overextension, contact with objects and equipment, and slip and falls.
Workers who sustain a personal injury at work will often assume that a workers’ compensation claim is the only avenue for recovery, but this is not always the case.
Although most employees will likely think of filing a workers’ compensation claim as their next step, many fail to consider the benefits of filing a personal injury claim.
If you have sustained a personal injury at work, you may be entitled to compensation. The personal injury attorneys at Abrahamson & Uiterwyk can evaluate your claim and help you determine whether you should file a workers’ compensation claim or a personal injury claim. Contact us today to learn more about how you can seek to maximize your recovery.
What Is a Workers’ Compensation Claim?
Florida law requires most employers to obtain workers’ compensation coverage. It is also important to note that Florida has a no-fault workers’ compensation system. This means that you do not need to show fault on your employer’s part to receive compensation for your claim.
While Florida has created a great system with many benefits to provide workers with compensation for their work-related injuries, there are also some downsides that make other options more appealing. Understanding the pros and cons of a workers’ compensation claim will help determine whether pursuing this is right for you.
Pros of a Work Injuries Compensation Claim
Once you file your workers’ compensation claim and your employer’s insurance company approves coverage of your work-related injury or illness, Florida law requires your employer to:
- Provide you with an authorized physician;
- Pay for any authorized and medically necessary care and treatment related to your injury or illness; and
- Provide you a one-time change of physician within five business days’ receipt of your written request.
These are all great benefits that give you a certain level of autonomy over your own medical care while also ensuring that you do not have to cover your own costs.
Authorized treatments that your employer will cover include:
- Doctor’s visits,
- Medical tests,
- Prescription drugs,
- Rehabilitation and physical therapy, and
- Travel expenses to and from authorized medical treatment or pharmacies.
This will allow you to recover for your injuries without the added stress of worrying whether you will be able to afford your necessary treatments.
In some cases, Florida law also provides for wage replacement benefits. If you are unable to return to work or must return in a reduced capacity due to your injuries, you may be entitled to one or more of the following additional benefits:
- Temporary total benefits,
- Temporary partial benefits,
- Permanent impairment benefits, and
- Permanent total benefits.
These benefits provided for under Florida workers’ compensation law can go a long way in helping you recover. However, there are also a number of disadvantages that are important to take into consideration.
Cons of Work Injuries Compensation
There are a few disadvantages of the workers’ compensation process in Florida that may affect your decision to pursue this type of claim.
The primary con of pursuing a workers’ compensation claim is that you will forfeit your right to pursue other avenues of recovery. You will be unable to pursue non-economic damages or sue your employer moving forward for a negligence claim related to your injuries.
Additionally, you could ultimately have your workers’ compensation claims denied. There is a chance that your employer’s insurance provider will try to find a way to deny or undercompensate you for your actual costs.
This could leave you with no other option than to pay your remaining costs out of pocket so that you can fully and properly recover.
Further, it can be difficult in some scenarios to prove that your injury is work-related. Section 449.09 of Florida’s workers’ compensation law states that treatment costs will be covered only if the work-related injury was the “major contributing cause” of any resulting injuries.
This means that if your need for treatment is not more than 50% related to your work-related accident, your employer does not need to compensate you.
This can complicate matters in a workers’ compensation case. For example, if you have a pre-existing condition, or if you were recently injured in another unrelated accident, you may have a difficult time proving that your work-related injury should be covered.
What Is a Claim for a Personal Injury at Work?
Injuries can happen to anyone at any time, and claims arising in the workplace are no exception. In general, a personal injury claim will arise where you are injured due to the negligence or fault of another party.
One of the primary differences between a personal injury claim and a workers’ compensation claim is that while you do not need to prove fault in your workers’ compensation case, you do need to establish fault in a personal injury claim.
However, Florida’s law bars you from pursuing a personal injury claim against your employer for ordinary negligence if your claim is covered by workers’ compensation.
So, to bring a personal injury claim based on a workplace accident, you must either sue a third party who contributed to your injury or show that the employer’s actions amounted to more than ordinary negligence.
Despite these additional hurdles that you must overcome to prevail on your personal injury claim, if you are able to do so, your recovery could ultimately be far greater than what you may be entitled to under your workers’ compensation claim.
Why a Personal Injury Claim May Be Superior to a Workers’ Compensation Claim
In some cases, a personal injury claim may be superior to a workers’ compensation claim. This is due in large part to the additional compensation you may be entitled to under a personal injury claim.
As discussed above, an employer must compensate an employee for their work injury-related medical expenses and wage replacement benefits.
These can be generally categorized as economic damages. However, Florida workers’ compensation law does not provide any compensation for other non-economic damages that an employee may suffer.
Personal injury law, on the other hand, does allow for this type of recovery. In addition to economic damages like medical expenses and lost wages, a personal injury claim will also allow you to seek recovery for non-economic damages such as:
- Pain and suffering,
- Emotional distress,
- Loss of companionship, and
- Loss of enjoyment of life.
Workers’ compensation laws provide a great benefit to employees by covering expenses for their physical injuries. However, there are often other non-physical damages, like those listed above, that will require treatment and compensation that can significantly affect an employee’s quality of life.
A personal injury claim may provide you a better chance of recovering for all of the damages you have suffered.
A personal injury claim may provide you a better chance of recovering for all of the damages you have suffered.
When Does a Personal Injury Lawsuit Apply in the Workplace?
To bring a work-related personal injury claim, you must be able to prove that the defendant was negligent or at fault in causing your injury. Claims workplace personal injury claims can be generally divided into claims against your employer and claims against claims against third parties.
Claims Against Your Employer
As discussed above, to bring a claim against your employer, you must be able to show that their actions amounted to more than just ordinary negligence. Circumstances where you may have a valid workplace personal injury claim against your employer include:
- Your employer failed to carry workers’ compensation coverage;
- Your employer did not meet workers’ compensation requirements;
- Intentional conduct by your employer that your employer is virtually certain will result in injury; and
- Intentional action or gross negligence by a co-worker.
Because the bar is higher for bringing a personal injury claim against your employer, it is important to have an idea of what situations could give rise to such a claim.
Claims Against Third Parties
You can also bring a claim against third parties. Two of the most common work-related personal injury claims are slip and fall claims and car accident claims.
Slip and fall claims, which are a subcategory of “premises liability” claims in Florida, arise frequently in workplace settings.
A workplace slip and fall claim will exist where a third-party creates an unreasonably dangerous condition on the premises that causes an employee to slip, trip, or fall, resulting in injuries.
To be successful on your workplace slip and fall claim, you must prove:
- The defendant owed a duty of care to you to maintain the premises in a safe condition;
- The defendant breached this duty, thereby acting negligently; and
- The dangerous condition caused your injury.
While this may be difficult to prove, our experienced slip and fall personal injury attorneys will fight to establish these elements so that you can bring a successful claim.
Another common workplace injury occurs when an employee is involved in an accident while driving on the job. If another party was responsible for the accident, you may have a successful workplace personal injury claim.
The attorneys at Abrahamson & Uiterwyk handle car accident personal injury cases regularly. We can help you identify and obtain the evidence you will need to help you prove fault and recover.
Contact Our Team of Personal Injury Attorneys Today
If you have sustained work-related injuries due to the actions of another, you may be entitled to compensation. Our team of experienced personal injury attorneys can evaluate your case and help you determine whether you have a valid personal injury claim.
At Abrahamson & Uiterwyk, we have been helping personal injury victims in Florida recover for over 30 years. You deserve compensation for your injuries, and we are ready and determined to fight for your rights so that you can recover. Contact us today for a free consultation and see how we can help you.
How Do I Know if I Should Pursue a Workers’ Compensation Claim or a Personal Injury Claim?
It can be difficult to determine which option might be best for you. However, speaking with an experienced attorney can help you get the compensation you deserve.
Do I Need a Lawyer for My Personal Injury Claim?
While having a lawyer is never required, we would always recommend at least reaching out for an initial consultation. Whether you choose to seek a workers’ compensation or a personal injury claim, speaking with a lawyer can be a great benefit.
What If I Can’t Afford a Personal Injury Attorney?
It is true that some law firms will charge a large sum of money to retain their services. However, at Abrahamson & Uiterwyk, we have a no fee guarantee. You will not incur any fees or costs unless and until you win.