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Will workers’ comp impede my personal injury claim?

On Behalf of | Nov 16, 2023 | Worker's Compensation

Your Pennsylvania employer must purchase insurance to cover expenses for employees who suffer injuries on the job. However, what if another person’s negligence caused your injuries? Is it possible to file a personal injury claim and collect workers’ compensation benefits at the same time? 

The answer to this question depends on the details of your case. In most cases, unless your employer caused your injuries by intentional tort (i.e., an act committed on purpose to cause you harm), then workers’ compensation insurance protects an employer from litigation. This is because workers’ comp is basically a no-fault system.  

Under what conditions can you collect benefits and file a personal injury claim?

If your employer did not cause your injuries by intentional tort, you cannot sue him or her for damages in civil court. However, under certain conditions, you can, in fact, collect workers’ comp benefits while simultaneously filing a personal injury claim. This can occur through a third-party claim.  

For example, if you suffered injuries on the job because of defective equipment, you may have grounds for filing a personal injury claim in civil court against the manufacturer of the equipment. If you are considering such a claim, you will want to review state laws regarding an employer’s ability to recoup monies paid to you through benefits if the court awards you compensation for damages in a third-party claim. 

Differences between workers’ comp and personal injury claims

As mentioned in a previous section, the workers’ compensation program is a no-fault system. This means that, if your employer, a coworker or you yourself were culpable for your injuries, you can still collect benefits but cannot sue your employer. Because fault is not relevant to workers’ comp eligibility, you cannot include things like emotional trauma in your list of injuries.  

In a personal injury claim, however, which is a civil action, you may include pain and suffering, emotional trauma and economic loss in the list of damages for which you are seeking restitution. The workers’ comp system provides coverage for tangible costs, such as medical bills or lost wages if you take time off work during recovery.  

A word about drunkenness and self-induced injuries

In most cases, if you were at fault in a workplace accident that resulted in injuries, you can still collect workers’ comp benefits. There are sometimes exceptions to this rule, however. For instance, if you were drunk or acting intentionally to commit self-harm, you might not be eligible to file a workers’ comp claim.  

In any case, it is always best to seek guidance and support before navigating the workers’ comp system. This is especially true if you are also considering filing a personal injury claim in civil court while collecting workers’ comp benefits. 

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