Should I File a Workers’ Compensation Claim or a Personal Injury Claim After a Work Injury?
If you’ve sustained an injury at work and are unable to work, it’s likely you’re worried about your finances. Medical bills can pile up quickly, especially in the event of serious injuries. Fortunately, there are systems in place to help injured workers recover.
Maximizing your compensation and improving your chances of making a full recovery involves filing a claim. Most work injuries call for a workers’ compensation claim; however, there are situations where filing a personal injury claim is appropriate.
In order to understand which claim you should file after a work injury, let’s take a look at the differences between the two claims. We’ll start by breaking down workers’ compensation in Maryland.
Workers’ Compensation Claims in Maryland
Workers’ compensation is an insurance program established by the state. In Maryland, employers who have one or more employees, full-time or part-time, are required to carry benefits in the event one of their workers is injured.
To be eligible for benefits, you have to have been accidentally injured on the job. According to the Workers’ Compensation Commission, the injury must have arisen out of and in the course of employment. If an employee is deemed eligible for benefits, they’ll receive compensation for medical and hospital treatments and partial income replacement benefits until they can return to work or reach maximum medical improvement (MMI). The types of benefits you receive are based on your medical diagnosis:
- Temporary Total Disability Benefits. If the injury resulted in a disability that prevents the employee from returning to work, they may be eligible for benefits. The start date of their eligibility depends on the period of disability. If it’s 14 days or less, the benefits are not allowed for the first three days except for hospital bills. If the disability period lasts for more than two weeks, compensation is allowed from the date of the disability.
- Temporary Partial Disability Benefits. These are offered to injured employees who are not totally disabled during their recovery period. The employer or insurer pays compensation that equals 50% of the difference between the employee’s average weekly wage and their wage-earning capacity while temporarily partially disabled.
- Permanent Total Disability Benefits. Catastrophic injuries, especially those involving lost limbs, leave a worker permanently and completely disabled.
- Permanent Partial Disability Benefits. Injuries that are not as severe as amputations but still leave a worker permanently disabled are eligible for benefits depending on the injury. Payment continues for a period of weeks according to the body part injury and the severity of the injury.
When you file a workers’ comp claim, you only need to prove the injury occurred within the scope of employment. Fault is not a factor, so you won’t need to prove that your co-workers or employer did anything wrong to cause the accident.
It’s important to note that if you choose to file a workers’ comp claim and you accept benefits, you’re likely giving up your right to sue your employer. That’s why, especially when negligence is involved, a personal injury claim is the way to go.
When Is it Appropriate to File a Personal Injury Claim for a Work Injury?
Personal injury claims are filed on the basis of negligence. Slip and falls and car crashes are common examples. In order to recover damages, you have to be able to prove that someone else owed you a duty of care and breached that duty. For example, filing a personal injury claim, as opposed to a workers’ compensation claim, could happen if you were driving to meet a client when another driver hit your car. Instead of seeking compensation from your employer’s insurer, you’d want to take legal action against the negligent driver.
In addition to the filing circumstance being different, one of the biggest differences between personal injury and workers’ comp is the possibility of compensation for pain and suffering. Workers’ compensation generally covers medical expenses and a portion of any lost wages that are received weekly. Pain and suffering isn’t covered because the benefits are a trade-off between labor and business owners.
Personal injury claims can seek compensation for all the damages suffered. That includes hospital bills, the future cost of care, the total amount of lost wages, lost earning capacity, pain and suffering, hedonic damages, and more.
If you’ve been injured at work, deciding what to do next can seem confusing. If you have questions about your legal rights and options or you’re uncertain as to which claim would best suit your circumstances, our lawyers can help. At Belsky, Weinberg & Horowitz, LLC, we have extensive experience representing work injury victims, and we’re prepared to take your case on. Contact us today for more information.