These two types of injury cases often get confused. They are different areas of law for the most part. But it’s worth knowing the differences, because if you don’t have a valid workers’ compensation claim, you might be able to pursue a personal injury lawsuit instead. One main difference between the two is how you prove your case. In a work injury situation, you have to prove that your injury arose out of and in the course of your employment. In other words, you have to show that it was job related. If you can do this, you should be entitled to benefits. You don’t have to prove that anyone was at fault or caused your injury. In a personal injury lawsuit, much of it rides on your ability to prove fault and causation. You usually can’t win unless you prove negligence, for example. In a work injury, it doesn’t matter whether it was your fault, or your employer’s fault, or no one’s fault.
A work injury case is an insurance claim, not a lawsuit. If you have a work injury, then you are not allowed to bring a lawsuit against your employer. The whole workers’ compensation system was set up as a trade-off of sorts. Employers are protected from lawsuits, and employees are entitled to benefits as long as an injury was related to the job.
There are some circumstances in which an injured worker would still have the option of a lawsuit. If an injury is caused by a third party – someone other than the employer – then the employee may be able to file an injury lawsuit against that third party. For example, if you are injured at a job site because the property owner was negligent, then you can sue the property owner for damages.
Another example of a third-party lawsuit is a lawsuit for a defective product. A defective piece of equipment or a tool that malfunctions can cause serious injury. There might be a lawsuit against the manufacturer in such cases.
Get a lawyer who understands the big picture and how these two areas of law work. And don’t wait too long. If you plan to go after workers’ compensation benefits, you have just 45 days to notify your employer. Other deadlines apply, as well. Benefits in Illinois include coverage of 100% of your medical bills (with no out-of-pocket expenses), as well as payment of lost wages if you are unable to work due to your injury. You can get 2/3 of your average weekly wage while you recover.