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Personal injury and workers’ compensation: what separates one from another? Both are related to someone getting hurt and seeking compensation, but beyond that these two legal fields vary greatly. It is important to separate fact from fiction when it comes to knowing your rights within personal injury and workers’ compensation law. There are three simple questions you can ask yourself to determine if you are involved in a workers’ compensation case, a personal injury case – or both.

Difference #1: Was someone at fault?

Workers’ compensation: It does not matter who is at fault.  This means that regardless of how the injury occurred, if you are injured on the job or have a work-related condition, you may be entitled to workers’ compensation.

Personal injury: A party must be at fault for the injury in order to have a case. There are some instances, referred to as third-party cases, where there can be both a personal injury case and a workers’ compensation case. For example, if a carpenter falls from a defective ladder while working, he may have a workers’ compensation case involving his employer and a personal injury case against the ladder manufacturer. His injury occurred while on the job, but it was caused by a faulty ladder.

Difference #2: Where did I get injured?

Workers’ compensation: Your injury must have occurred during the course and scope of your employment. Many people think that workers’ compensation only pertains to injuries caused from one event at work – such as if a nurse throws her back out while lifting a patient – but that is not the case. Injuries that occur or are aggravated over time due to your job are compensable under workers’ compensation. If you have been a teacher for 20 years and your carpal tunnel worsens because of repetitive writing, you may be eligible for workers’ compensation.

Personal injury: It does not matter where the injury occurred. Whether you were walking your dog, driving your car, or running errands, if you get hurt and someone else’s negligence helped cause the injury, you may be eligible to seek compensation.

Difference #3: What compensation can I pursue?

Workers’ compensation: You are able to pursue wage loss benefits for the money that you would have been able to earn had you not been injured on the job, as well as coverage for medical care related to your work injury. Your wage loss benefits may be paid out over time or in a lump-sum settlement. You cannot, however, actually sue your employer over your work-related injury; the idea that you can is the most common misconception about workers’ compensation.

In the 1915 Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act, workers made a Great Tradeoff. Employees injured on the job were guaranteed payment for lost wages and medical bills in exchange for giving up their constitutional right to sue their employer for damages. Workers injured on the job have a right to pursue wage loss benefits and payment for medical bills, but they cannot sue their employer directly.

Personal injury: You can collect compensatory damages for your loss or injury, including compensation for pain and suffering. You may also be eligible to collect punitive damages, which seek to prevent similar action by the offending party if they are found guilty of willful negligence or wrongdoing.

If you or a loved one has been injured, on or off the job, you may have a claim. Contact us to help understand if you do,