Is there a difference between workers compensation and a personal injury case? Can you file a claim for workers compensation and later file a personal injury lawsuit in Massachusetts?
You Need Fault in a Personal Injury Case
Perhaps the biggest difference between the two is that personal injury lawsuits are based on fault while workers compensation is not.
A good example of fault in a personal injury case is a car accident case. If you were involved in an accident and you believe that it wasn’t your fault, it’s up to you and your car accident lawyer to prove that the other person was negligent. You can only recover damages from the other driver if they were at fault.
You Don’t Need Fault in a Workers Compensation Case
If you get injured while on the job, you are entitled to workers compensation regardless of whether the accident was your fault or not. There are of course a few exceptions. For instance,if you were injured because you were intoxicated or under the influence of drugs, you might not receive compensation. Other than taking a drug test to prove that you were not intoxicated at the time of your accident, you don’t need to prove anything else.
The Damages Are Different
What you get in a personal injury lawsuit is not what you will get in workers compensation benefits. Among the things you will not receive in workers compensation benefits is damages for pain and suffering.
As for a personal injury case, you can recover all the damages you have suffered including pain and suffering, lost wages, future medical expenses, medical bills, lost earning capacity among other things.
As for the workers compensation benefits, you can only receive vocational rehabilitation, medical bills, permanent and temporary impairment and weekly compensation benefits.
The reason why you cannot receive compensation for pain and suffering is because workers compensation is a trade off between employers and labor. Before workers compensation laws were enacted, the only way an employee could recover damages from their employer was by filing a personal injury lawsuit. If the suit did not go through or they didn’t sue, the employee ended up getting nothing.
You Aren’t Allowed to Sue Your Employer or Co-Workers
If you file for workers compensation, under Massachusetts’s laws, you lose the right to file a lawsuit for pain and suffering against your employer
However, there are instances where you can recover damages for pain and suffering under workers compensation. If someone else other than your employer was responsible for your injuries, then you can file a personal injury lawsuit against them. For instance, you can sue a product manufacturer for selling faulty equipment or equipment with faulty controls. You can work with your personal injury lawyer to prove that the faulty equipment caused the accident. Filing a claim against the product manufacturer does not mean that you waive the right to receive workers compensation benefits.
Are There Workers Who Don’t Fall Under Workers Compensation Laws in Massachusetts?
Interstate railroad workers and crew members vessels do not fall under any workers compensation laws. If you work as a crew member on any type of boat, whether it’s a cruise ship or a fishing boat, you are not entitled to workers compensation. You can, however, sue your employer for damages including pain and suffering.
These ships’ crew members are protected under the Jones Act that allows them to sue their employers if they get injured while on the job. If you get injured and you fall under the two classes of employees, you should get a lawyer who specializes in Jones Act cases.
The Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA) on the other hand permits interstate railroad workers to file a lawsuit against their employer if they are injured at work. Commuter rail workers on the other hand do not fall under FELA.
You Need a Lawyer for both Workers Compensation and Personal Injury Cases
Okay, so we discussed what you should do after you get injured at work. It all seems very easy and straight forward that many workers think they can file for workers compensation benefits and everything will go as planned. After all, you don’t really need to prove anything because workers compensation laws categorically state that all workers are entitled to compensation regardless of who is at fault for causing the accident.
However, in most cases, you will fare better if you seek the assistance of an experienced Massachusetts workers compensation lawyer.
Your workers compensation case will be heard by an administrative judge or counciliator at the Department of Industrial Accidents. Your employer’s insurance company will hire an experienced attorney to represent them. You too should hire an attorney to represent you so they can advise you about the benefits you are entitled to under the Massachusetts law.
As for a personal injury case, you need a personal injury lawyer to help protect your rights even if the accident was your fault. Going up against insurance adjusters alone is not a good idea because they are only after their best interests. An experienced personal injury lawyer knows all too well how insurance companies work and the tactics they use in their cases.
New Bedford, MA Personal Injury and Workers Compensation Lawyer
Our law firm knows that people responsible for an accident sometimes try to get around the law and that’s why we are here to help. Our New Bedford personal injury and workers compensation lawyers know all too well the statutes pertaining to your case and we are ready to protect your rights.
At Kevin P Landry, we are able to:
- Walk you through the entire process
- Answer any questions pertaining Massachusetts law
- Ask you to describe what happened in great detail
- Find out what your current and past medical bills are
We are happy to meet with you to discuss your case. We can come to the hospital or you can drop by at one of our New Bedford offices to schedule your free initial consultation. Alternatively, you can call us at 508-999-0800 and we can discuss your case.