Coordinating Work Injury and Personal Injury Claim
How Coordinating Your Workers’ Compensation Claim and Personal Injury Case Can Benefit You After a Workplace Accident
In California, workers’ compensation laws provide an important protection to employees who are injured on the job. These benefits are available without the necessity of showing who was at fault in causing the injury accident: the fact that the worker was engaged in the performance of his or her duty when he or she was injured or became ill is enough (essentially) to entitle the employee to workers’ compensation benefits.
While this (in theory) allows injured workers to obtain some measure of compensation quickly, the benefits a worker receives from workers’ compensation may not be sufficient to fully compensate the worker for all of his or her expenses or losses (especially his or her lost future wages). If the worker was injured in an accident caused by the negligent or reckless conduct of a third-party – that is, someone or some entity that is not the worker’s employer or a coworker – the injured worker may pursue a personal injury lawsuit against the negligent third-party in addition to pursuing a claim for workers’ compensation benefits. How these two cases interact – the workers’ compensation lawsuit and the personal injury lawsuit – can be confusing, however, so it is important to seek legal counsel from an experienced attorney.
Workers’ Compensation Insurers are Entitled to Recover from the Personal Injury Lawsuit
A workers’ compensation claim will likely be resolved sooner than a personal injury lawsuit, which means the workers’ compensation insurer will have paid benefits out to the worker before the personal injury lawsuit is decided. Once the personal injury lawsuit is resolved (and if the injured worker is successful in obtaining compensation through the lawsuit), the law enables the workers’ compensation insurer to recover the amount it has paid to the worker from the personal injury judgment. What is more, the workers’ compensation insurer is entitled to notification if a third-party lawsuit is filed.
For example, suppose that an injured worker receives $10,000 in benefits from his or her workers’ compensation claim and later obtains $50,000 in compensatory damages from a personal injury lawsuit. In this situation, the workers’ compensation insurer would be entitled to recover the $10,000 it has already paid in benefits. The excess amount can also be used as a credit against future benefits that would be paid by the insurer. Using the example above again, if the workers’ compensation insurer is expected to pay an additional $5,000 in lost wages pursuant to the workers’ claim, the insurer could recover this amount as well. This rule prevents the injured worker from being compensated twice for the same injuries or losses.
How Does Filing a Personal Injury Suit Benefit Me Then?
The monetary compensation an injured worker may receive through a workers’ compensation claim are not as broad as those available in a personal injury lawsuit: damages for mental pain and suffering are not available, for instance, and lost wages in a workers’ compensation claim are calculated as a portion or percentage of the worker’s average wages prior to the accident. A personal injury lawsuit can help the injured worker recover amounts in excess of the benefits available under the workers’ compensation statutes.
What is more, the workers’ compensation insurer may lend legal assistance and resources to assist in prosecuting the third-party personal injury claim because the workers’ compensation insurer has an interest in the outcome. This, in turn, may result in the personal injury lawsuit settling quicker and/or the worker and his or her personal injury attorney expending fewer resources to resolve the claim.
Contact the Law Offices of Edward Smith for Assistance Coordinating a workers’ compensation claim and a personal injury lawsuit so that the injured worker receives the maximum benefit requires skill and experience. I’m Ed Smith, a Sacramento Workers’ Compensation Lawyer since 1982. Call me anytime at 916-921-6400 in Sacramento or 800-404-5400 Elsewhere.