Injured at Work – Workers Compensation or Liability Claim?

Choosing the right type of claim (or claims) can benefit injury victims

It is sad to see that thousands of people in the United States die each year due to work-related incidents, and millions more suffer injuries, some of which are serious and life-changing. Although many employers take workplace safety much more seriously than in the past, and although federal and state regulatory agencies have implemented many more safety requirements, these incidents can and do occur. always produce. When a workplace injury or death has occurred, a common question for injured workers or their surviving family members is, “What type of compensation is available to help recover from this incident?” Depending on the state and facts of the injury incident, the most common response is — workers’ compensation or liability insurance. . . or both. Determining what type of coverage may be available and which may provide the best financial outcome for the client’s situation is a key service that experienced personal injury attorneys are able to provide.

Work-related injuries in numbers

On November 9, 2022, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released data on work injuries and occupational illnesses for calendar year 2021. These data showed:

  • 2.6 million non-fatal injuries and illnesses for 2021, down 1.8% from the previous year.
  • A rate of 2.7 “recordable cases” of injuries and illnesses per 100 full-time worker positions.
  • The largest component of the drop in cases was due to a reduction in Covid-19 cases compared to the previous year (for circumstances where workers contracted the disease in the line of duty). This resulted in a 37.1% decrease in respiratory disease cases from 2020, although still well above pre-Covid rates.
  • In total, just over one million non-fatal cases resulted in the loss of at least one day of work.

Of the industries that showed changes in injury rates from the previous year, retail, transportation and warehousing showed the largest increases, while healthcare showed the most. sharp reduction (again, linked to the reduction in the number of Covid). Despite the reduction in overall figures, health care and social assistance still had the highest rates of work-related respiratory illnesses, at 99.2 cases per 10,000 full-time positions.

The data just released by the BLS was for non-fatal cases in 2021, while a second report is due in December 2022 for fatal workplace injuries in 2021. Data from the previous year showed 4,764 fatalities on the workplace.

Workers compensation or liability claim?

Workers’ compensation insurance and the workers’ compensation system exist to provide benefits to injured workers and coverage to their employers in cases where the employee could otherwise bring a liability claim against the employer. Apart from a few specific exceptions, such as an employer who does not have workers’ compensation coverage, this is the only avenue available for injured workers or their survivors to seek compensation for an injury on the job, particularly when the employer and/or co-workers may have been negligent. Although we discuss these specific exceptions elsewhere, there are other situations where an employment injury may occur due to the negligence of a third party that has nothing to do with the injured worker or their employer. In these cases, the injured worker may benefit from both workers’ compensation coverage and bodily injury liability insurance available from the negligent party.

A common example of a situation where this can occur is a motor vehicle accident in which the worker at work – whether driving an employer-owned vehicle or his own vehicle in the performance of his duties – is hit and injured by another driver on the road. Because this injury occurred while the worker was on duty, he would have workers’ compensation coverage available for his injuries, while at the same time, the negligent driver’s automobile liability coverage would also be available. its disposition.

Which cover to choose?

In these situations of potential double coverage, it is necessary to carefully consider the facts that will determine which type(s) of coverage – workers’ compensation or liability insurance (or both) – may apply, as well than the one that can provide the injured worker with the best bottom line. Each type of coverage – workers’ compensation or bodily injury liability insurance – has advantages and disadvantages.

Workers’ compensation is automatic – if the injury occurred while the worker was at work, workers’ compensation is available. It is not necessary to prove negligence in a labor compensation claim, simply that the employee was on duty. Worker’s compensation can sometimes provide greater benefits or longer duration benefits, especially in serious injury situations that have left a worker permanently disabled. On the other hand, compensation for work can severely limit a worker’s choice of medical care and treatment providers, and the full resolution of a workers’ compensation claim can sometimes be a very slow process. and difficult.

Liability insurance coverage for a negligent party, such as car insurance in the event of a traffic accident, is not automatic – it is necessary to prove that the other driver was negligent in order for the insurer pay. On the other hand, liability claims will have fewer restrictions on medical providers and treatment – the injured victim is free to choose their regular doctors if they wish – and liability claims will often grant greater compensatory value to many types of injuries than those of workers. compensation claims will. And some types of liability claims, especially policy limit claims where the value of the claim is obviously much higher than the coverage limits, can be resolved faster than labor claims.

Very often in these situations, the simultaneous pursuit of both types of claims will benefit the injured worker. This will always depend on the specific facts of their situation, including:

  • The nature of their injuries, including permanence and severity.
  • The amount and cost of long-term medical care that may be needed.
  • The clarity of the evidence proving the negligence and liability of the third party defendant.
  • The amount of bodily injury liability coverage available.

In any situation where both types of claims are pursued, the workers’ compensation insurer will seek either compensation or reimbursement of benefits paid from the proceeds of the settlement or verdict of the personal injury claim – the amount that may be due to the carrier of the work. can be a complicated calculation, and it is often subject to negotiation. Providing these negotiation services, as well as determining the types of coverage that will best benefit the injured worker are crucial ways an experienced personal injury attorney can help clients who have suffered workplace injuries.

Watch this news video about a woman whose workers’ compensation claim related to exposure to Covid at work was denied for the first time, but where persistence paid off:

Sacramento Workers Compensation Lawyer

Hello, my name is Ed Smith and I am a workers compensation attorney in Sacramento. Millions of people are injured on the job each year and, sadly, thousands more are killed. The avenues of seeking compensation for injured workers or their surviving families can be complicated and frustrating to navigate. Carefully evaluating the types of coverage that may be available to an injured worker – workers’ compensation, liability insurance, or both – is key to getting the best bottom line for the worker and an important service that personal injury lawyers can provide to customers. If you or a member of your family has been seriously injured on the job, please contact us at (916) 921-6400 or (800) 404-5400 for free, friendly advice. You can also reach us via our online contact form.

We are proud members of the National Association of Distinguished Counsel and the Million Dollar Advocates Forum.

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Image by Mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

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