personal injury vs workers' comp case

When workers get hurt on the job in Missouri or Arkansas, they face an important decision regarding their legal options for seeking compensation.

Generally, there are two avenues to pursue legal action.

While workers’ compensation provides immediate benefits (like medical coverage), personal injury claims allow for the pursuit of additional compensation.

When choosing between a claim for workers’ comp vs. a personal injury claim, it’s best to seek the guidance of an experienced attorney so you don’t miss out on potential benefits.

What Is Workers’ Compensation?

Workers’ compensation is a form of insurance that provides medical benefits, wage replacement, and rehabilitation services to injured or ill workers.

Missouri and Arkansas require employers to carry workers’ compensation insurance.

The insurance benefits provide immediate and guaranteed benefits to injured workers without requiring them to prove fault or liability on behalf of the employer.

The injured employee receives compensation for the work-related injuries and waives their right to file legal action against the employer. 

One significant advantage of workers’ compensation for the injured employee is that it covers medical expenses related to the injury, including doctor visits, hospital bills, prescription medication, and rehabilitative treatment.

Additionally, workers may receive partial wage replacement benefits (two-thirds of their wage) if they cannot work due to injuries.

Financial support like this is invaluable during the recovery period. It is also advantageous to the employer because they don’t have to worry about being sued whenever a worker is injured. 

If you choose to file a workers’ comp claim, you must report your injury to your employer immediately. Failure to report your injury could result in you being unable to receive workers’ comp benefits. 

It’s also important to note that only employees can collect workers’ comp in Arkansas and Missouri—not independent contractors.

If you’re an independent contractor, these rules and benefits will not apply to you.

If there is any question about whether you are an employee versus an independent contractor, reach out to an attorney to determine if your legal options might be affected.

What Is a Personal Injury Claim?

Unlike workers’ compensation, a personal injury claim seeks to hold a third party accountable for the injury.

A personal injury claim also pursues compensation beyond two-thirds of lost wages, medical care coverage, and disability payments.

Generally, the recovery from a personal injury claim is higher. However, not every injured worker has the right to file a personal injury claim. 

To succeed in a personal injury claim, the injured worker must prove that a third party was liable and caused their injury.

A worker can establish liability by proving the four elements of negligence—duty, breach, causation, and damages. The injured party must show that the third party owed them a duty of care (duty) and that the third party failed to fulfill that duty (breach).

Then, they must show that the third party’s breach of duty directly caused their injuries (causation), resulting in compensable damages (damages).

Proving negligence requires the help of an attorney because there must be evidence substantiating each element. 

Further, each state has different laws that could impact a personal injury recovery. Speaking with an attorney is key to ensuring you don’t miss deadlines or miss out on other benefits you could be entitled to, like Social Security or Missouri’s Second Injury Fund.

Comparing Personal Injury and Workers’ Compensation Claims

Deciding whether to file for workers’ compensation or pursue a personal injury claim depends on the injured worker’s circumstances.

Workers’ compensation claims are generally straightforward and provide a swift resolution if you are financially strapped. 

On the other hand, personal injury claims allow injured workers to seek compensation for a broader range of damages, including physical and emotional pain, loss of enjoyment of life, and future medical expenses.

However, the personal injury claim process requires establishing liability, as noted above. Because of this extra step, personal injury claims tend to be more complex and time-consuming than workers’ compensation claims.

Deciding whether to choose workers’ comp vs. a personal injury claim is further complicated because injured workers are generally barred from suing their employer directly for injuries or illness.

However, there may be situations where third-party liability is involved, such as accidents caused by defective products or the negligence of a contractor or subcontractor.

An injured worker can pursue a personal injury claim against the responsible party in such cases and may be able to receive both workers’ comp and a personal injury recovery, but seeking legal guidance immediately after your injury is imperative to avoid either claim being barred. 

Consult with the Cottrell Law Office

Still wondering, Should I file a workers’ comp claim or go the personal injury route? Consider seeking professional legal advice from an experienced attorney.

Making the right choice between workers’ compensation and a personal injury claim can significantly impact the outcome of your case.

With over 32 years of experience and hundreds of thousands of dollars recovered for workers’ compensation clients, the Cottrell Law Office is the law firm you’re looking for.

Contact us today to discuss your options after a work-related injury.

Author Photo

Wesley Cottrell

Wes Cottrell earned his B.A. from Pittsburg State University in 1981 and his J.D. from the Washburn University School of Law in Topeka, Kansas in 1985. He was admitted to practice law in Kansas in 1986, in Missouri in 1987, in Arkansas in 1989, and Oklahoma in 1993. He is licensed to practice law in the United States District Court for the District of Kansas, eastern Arkansas, western Arkansas, and western Missouri. He was Deputy Prosecuting Attorney in Crawford County, Kansas from 1987-1989.

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