Learn the key differences between workers’ compensation and personal injury claims so you can maximize your compensation after an accident
Navigating the legal landscape after sustaining an injury can be daunting, particularly when trying to understand the nuances between personal injury and workers’ compensation claims in Montana. While both avenues offer pathways to financial recovery for injuries, they differ significantly in their approach, coverage and the process involved in securing compensation.
This article will clarify the key distinctions between these 2 types of claims in Montana, guiding injured parties toward the most appropriate course of action for their unique circumstances.
If you need help with a personal injury or workers’ comp claim in Montana, reach out to the experienced Great Falls injury attorneys at Murphy Law Firm for a free consultation.
What’s the difference between a personal injury and a workers’ compensation claim?
Understanding the differences between workers’ compensation claims and personal injury claims is crucial for anyone who’s been injured in Montana, as the type of claim affects the compensation process, the types of damages that can be recovered, and the need to prove fault.
Below are the main differences between these 2 types of claims:
|Fault is generally not a consideration in workers’ comp claims. Employees are entitled to workers’ comp benefits for on-the-job injuries regardless of who was at fault, even if the injury was due to their own mistake.
|The claimant must prove that another party was at fault due to negligence or intentional wrongdoing. The compensation amount often depends on the degree of the other party’s liability.
|Types of compensation
|Benefits typically include medical expenses, a portion of lost wages (usually around two-thirds of the average wage), disability benefits, and vocational rehabilitation. It does not compensate for pain and suffering.
|Claimants can seek compensation for a wider range of damages, including full lost wages, medical expenses, pain and suffering, emotional distress, and loss of enjoyment of life, often making it a better option for serious and catastrophic injuries.
|Process and proceedings
|Claims are processed through an administrative system specifically designed for workers’ comp. As a no-fault system, it’s intended to provide swift benefits that can be easily calculated based on the type and severity of injury.
|Claims are pursued through the civil court system and can either be settled out of court or go to trial. The process can be more time-consuming and requires proving negligence.
|Coverage and eligibility
|Only employees who suffer work-related injuries or occupational illnesses are eligible for workers’ comp benefits. Independent contractors are typically not covered (though there are exceptions).
|Anyone injured due to someone else’s negligence or intentional act can file a personal injury claim, regardless of employment status.
Understanding these distinctions is key to determining the best legal path following an injury, whether it occurred in the workplace or elsewhere. Each path offers different benefits and challenges, and the choice can significantly impact the outcome of a claim.
What’s the advantage of filing a workers’ comp claim instead of a personal injury lawsuit after an injury at work?
If you suffer a work-related injury, illness or disease, filing a workers’ compensation claim instead of a personal injury lawsuit can offer several advantages:
- No need to prove fault. Workers’ compensation is a no-fault system, meaning you can receive benefits regardless of who was at fault for your injury. This contrasts with personal injury lawsuits, where you must prove the other party’s negligence caused your injury, which can be complex and time-consuming.
- Quicker access to benefits. Workers’ comp claims typically process faster than personal injury lawsuits, allowing you to receive medical benefits and wage replacement more quickly. Personal injury lawsuits can take years to settle or go to trial, delaying your compensation.
- Guaranteed compensation. Workers’ compensation provides guaranteed benefits for medical expenses and lost wages due to a work-related injury, illness or disease. While personal injury lawsuits can offer larger payouts, including pain and suffering, they come with the risk of receiving nothing if you fail to prove the other party’s fault.
- Avoid legal expenses. Pursuing a personal injury lawsuit can be more costly, requiring upfront costs for legal fees, court fees and other expenses. Workers’ comp claims usually have minimal costs to the employee, with legal fees often regulated and contingent on securing benefits.
These advantages make workers’ compensation an essential protection for workers injured on the job, providing a streamlined, fault-independent pathway to receiving necessary benefits and support during recovery.
Can I have both a workers’ compensation claim and a personal injury claim for the same injury?
Yes, under certain circumstances, you can have both a workers’ compensation claim and a personal injury claim for the same injury. However, this typically occurs when a third party (someone other than your employer) is responsible for your injury.
Below are some scenarios where this might apply:
- Third-party liability. If your work-related injury was caused by someone who is not your employer or a coworker (such as a contractor, vendor, or manufacturer of defective equipment), you can file a workers’ compensation claim to cover medical bills and lost wages and also pursue a personal injury lawsuit against the third party responsible for the injury. This allows you to seek damages that are not covered by workers’ compensation, such as pain and suffering.
- Vehicle accidents. If you’re driving for work purposes and are hit by another driver, you may file a workers’ comp claim for being injured while working and also file a personal injury claim against the driver who hit you.
- Negligent property owners. If you’re injured on someone else’s property while performing your job duties (e.g., a UPS worker slipping and falling during a delivery), you might file a workers’ comp claim for the work-related aspect and a personal injury claim against the property owner for negligence.
- Intentional acts. If your employer intentionally caused your injury, some jurisdictions may allow you to bypass the workers’ comp system and file a personal injury lawsuit directly against your employer. This is a rare exception and requires clear evidence of intentional harm.
- Lack of workers’ comp insurance. If your employer is legally required to have workers’ comp insurance but does not, you might have the option to file a personal injury lawsuit against them for failing to provide the mandated coverage.
It’s important to consult with an attorney specializing in workers’ compensation and personal injury law to understand your rights and the best course of action based on the specifics of your case.
Injured in Montana? Our experienced accident attorneys can help!
Navigating the complexities of a personal injury or workers’ compensation claim can be challenging. Regardless of which type of claim you pursue, it requires expert guidance to ensure your rights are protected and you receive the compensation you deserve.
With over 75 years of combined experience, the attorneys at Murphy Law Firm in Great Falls, Montana, are well-equipped to provide you with the support and expertise necessary to navigate this legal terrain. Whether you’re suffering from a workplace injury or dealing with the aftermath of a personal injury, our team is dedicated to standing by your side and fighting for your best interests.
Reach out to Murphy Law Firm today to schedule a free consultation to learn more about how we can help maximize your compensation.