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Workers’ Compensation or Personal Injury: What Kind of Claim Do You Have?Every year in Tennessee, dozens of workers are injured on the job. Whether you work in construction, manufacturing, healthcare, or in an office, there is always risk for injury. The majority of these cases are dealt with through workers’ compensation, which pays for the injured employee’s medical bills and partial coverage of wages while the employee is unable to work.

However, some workers may wonder if they can also sue their employer with a personal injury lawsuit. The short answer is, you often can’t. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t sue another entity if they are responsible for your injury. The following discusses the details of what you can and can’t do.

Difference between workers’ comp and personal injury claims

The biggest—and most important—difference between a workers’ compensation claim and a personal injury claim is fault. You do not need to prove any fault to file for workers’ comp after you are injured on the job. You don’t have to show that you, your employer, or your co-workers did anything wrong in order for you to receive benefits. However, you cannot receive pain and suffering compensation in a workers’ comp case and you cannot sue your employer or your co-workers. You are able to collect lost wages and get your medical bills paid, and in return, you don’t sue your employer for any type of negligence.

However, there are two very small classes of employees who can sue their employers after being injured on the job. They are crewmembers of vessels and interstate railway workers. The federal law known as the Jones Act allows crewmembers of any boat to sue their employers for damages after an injury (including pain and suffering), as they do not have workers’ compensation benefits. Interstate railroad workers go by a different law, the Federal Employees Liability Act, which also allows them to sue their employer for damages in the event of an injury.

When does a personal injury lawsuit apply to my work injury?

There are instances when you may be able to file for both workers’ compensation and a personal injury claim—they just can’t be against the same people. You may be barred from filing a personal injury claim against your employer, but you can file what’s called a third-party claim.

In a third-party claim, you must be able to prove that a third party caused your injuries via an act of negligence. Some examples of an on-the-job injury that may be open to third-party claims include:

  • Injuries suffered in a car accident while working where the other driver was negligent
  • Defective tools, machinery, or equipment causing injury
  • An accident caused by a negligent contractor or subcontractor from another company
  • Negligent construction or architecture designs resulting in injury

In situations like these, it may be possible to sue the third party in a personal injury lawsuit if you can prove they were negligent and their negligence resulted in your injury. In a personal injury claim, in addition to compensation for medical expenses and lost wages, you can also pursue damages for pain and suffering.

At Wagner & Wagner Attorneys at Law, we understand the workers’ compensation filing process can be complicated. We’ll help you get it right the first time. We serve clients in Chattanooga and Cleveland, TN, in North Georgia, and all surrounding counties. Call us today at 423-756-7923 or complete our contact form to schedule your free consultation with a knowledgeable Chattanooga workers’ compensation lawyer.