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Workers' Comp vs. Personal Injury Claims


If you have been injured at your workplace or while performing your job duties in South Carolina, you are eligible to file a workers’ compensation claim to cover your medical expenses and a portion of their lost wages. However, depending on the circumstances of your work injury, did you know that you can also file a personal injury claim?

First, let’s understand the difference between workers’ compensation claims and personal injury lawsuits.

Determining Fault

Workers’ compensation is an insurance policy administered by the workers’ compensation boards of individual states, such as South Carolina. According to workers’ compensation law, benefits are available to a worker who suffers an injury on the job, and no proof of fault is required to be made for the benefits to be granted. All that needs to be established is that the harm occurred at the workplace and is connected somehow with the work duties the employee performed.

By contrast, in order to recover damages in a personal injury lawsuit, plaintiff—and their lawyer—must prove that the defendant was negligent and their negligence caused your injury. Additionally, the injured party must also show proof of the amount of damages that resulted from the injury, and request payment from the defendant to “make them whole again.”

Types of Damages

The most significant difference in damages between a workers’ compensation case and a personal injury claim is that the injured party is not entitled to benefits for pain and suffering in a workers’ comp case. The injured party can only receive weekly compensation, permanent impairment benefits, medical bills, and vocational rehabilitation.

On the other hand, a plaintiff is entitled to recover all of the damages they have suffered in a personal injury case. This includes lost earnings, lost earning capacity, medical bills, future medical bills, permanent impairment, pain and suffering, emotional distress, and loss of enjoyment of life.

Ability to Sue

Before states across the nation enacted workers’ compensation laws near the turn of the 20th century, the only way injured workers can obtain damages for an injury on the job was to sue their employers for negligence. However, if the employer was not negligent, or if the worker did not sue or bring a claim against the employer, then the employee wouldn’t obtain damages.

Now, the workers’ compensation laws ensure that all employees who were injured in the workplace would receive weekly benefits and would get their medical expenses paid. In return, injuries lose their right to sue their employers and coworkers for negligence.

Key Areas of Overlap

Although there are many differences between the two, there are also instances where an injured worker is eligible for both types of claims. In such a case, the plaintiff is entitled to all of the damages available.

The following are common examples of when an injured worker may be able to successfully file a personal injury lawsuit:

  • The injury involves a defective product, which would permit a product liability claim against the product manufacturer.
  • The injury involves a toxic chemical, in which a toxic tort lawsuit may be brought against the manufacturer of the toxic substance.
  • The injury was caused by the negligence of a third party that doesn’t work for the company.
  • The employer’s conduct—that led to an employee’s injury—was intentional or obviously likely to cause serious harm or death.
  • The employer fails to carry workers’ comp insurance or didn’t because they were not technically required to.

To better understand your case and which option is most suitable for your situation, contact our Charleston personal injury attorney at Pierce | Sloan today.

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