Workers’ compensation law and personal injury law can both provide compensation for injured parties. Nonetheless, the terms of these two compensation systems are vastly distinct. Typically, you will be eligible for one programme but not the other. However, it is occasionally possible to qualify for both.
Compensation for Work-Related Injuries
New York workers’ compensation is limited to injuries or deaths sustained on the job. If the injury is unrelated to work, workers’ compensation is not applicable.
In contrast, personal injury law applies to injuries not covered by workers’ compensation. It also covers certain types of occupational injuries (see below).
The Right to Sue
As long as your injury is not work-related, you may file a claim for ordinary personal injury against the defendant. However, if you file a claim for a work-related injury, you cannot typically sue your employer. You cannot even sue a coworker for negligence. You must instead navigate the New York workers’ compensation bureaucracy to resolve your claim.
There are two major exceptions to the rule prohibiting civil lawsuits for work-related injuries against an employer:
- You may sue your employer for intentionally inflicting harm on you (punching you in the nose, for example).
- Employers are required by New York law to carry workers’ compensation insurance.
- You may sue them in civil court for a work-related injury if they fail to compensate you.
You can also sue your employer for causing an injury that is not work-related.
There is some overlap between the coverage provided by workers’ compensation and that provided by the personal injury system. Suppose, for instance, that you are a construction worker who was injured on a third-party-owned construction site.
If your injury was caused by a hazardous property condition, you may have a premises liability claim. You may file this claim against the property owner as a personal injury claim, despite the fact that the incident occurred on the job.
You do not need to demonstrate that your employer is at fault in order to receive workers’ compensation. In fact, you can typically obtain benefits if you sustain an injury due to your own carelessness. This no-fault system is based on the premise that you would not have sustained your injury had you not been working.
In the majority of personal injury claims, it is necessary to establish negligence, carelessness, or intentional misconduct. Product liability claims are an exception because you only need to demonstrate that an unreasonable hazard caused your injury.
In personal injury cases, New York employs a system of “pure comparative negligence.” The court will assign percentages of fault to each party. It will deduct the proportion of your damages proportional to your degree of fault (if any). Theoretically, you could recover 2% of your damages even if you were responsible for 98% of the accident’s damages.
Getting the Compensation You Deserve
Personal injury law provides compensation that is significantly more generous than workers’ compensation law. In a workers’ compensation claim, it is possible to receive compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, and occupational disability.
In a claim for personal injury, you can seek both economic and non-economic damages, such as:
- Pain and suffering; Physical disfigurement; Mental anguish/emotional distress; Loss of enjoyment of life; and Sexual dysfunction or loss of intimacy with a spouse;
This is not an exhaustive list of the non-economic damages you may be entitled to receive in a personal injury lawsuit. In cases involving outrageous behaviour by the defendant, you may be eligible for punitive damages in addition to economic and non-economic damages.
An Experienced Lawyer Can Guide You Through the Injury Compensation Maze
You may need legal counsel to determine whether you should pursue workers’ compensation, personal injury, or both. Your attorney may even find a way to maximise the primary benefit of workers’ compensation (no need to prove fault) and the primary benefit of personal injury claims (the absence of a need to prove fault) (the availability of non-economic damages).
Contact Our Personal Injury Law Firm
Contact Abrams Law Group for a free consultation if you’ve been hurt in an accident and require legal assistance.