There were about 3.2 million nonfatal injuries in American workplaces in 2020. This most recent reporting year also saw approximately 4764 fatalities across the US while employees were at work. If you or a loved one suffered one of these accidents recently, it’s important that you file a lawsuit ASAP to receive the damages that you’re due.
There are multiple types of suits that you can file and claims that you can make. Read on to learn whether your case qualifies as personal injury, wrongful death, or worker’s compensation.
The Basics of Personal Injury Cases
“Personal injury” is an extremely broad legal category that encompasses all damages to a person’s body or property. To file a legitimate personal injury (PI) claim, you need to prove that someone else caused the injury. This cause may have been an action that they took, but it more commonly refers to negligence.
For example, take an employee who slips and falls on company property and falls down a flight of stairs.
If the company took all necessary precautions such as barricading the unsafe stairwell and providing written information about the hazard, this worker may not have a PI claim. On the flip side, if the flooring was clearly uneven and unrestricted while and no information was given on the hazard, the employee could file a PI suit.
If this employee succeeded in proving that the employer was at fault for their injury, they will win their case and be entitled to damages. PI cases are also often referred to as “tort cases,” and winning the case means that you have taken successful tort action.
In almost every successful tort case, the party at fault pays the injured individual the cost of their medical bills. They may also need to pay you for the working hours that you lost due to your injury and the money you lost because you were unable to perform tasks.
In some cases, you also may be entitled to damages for pain and suffering. This is not always true, but it’s worth discussing with an attorney. The goal of a tort case is to get you the maximum compensation available.
Do Personal Injury Cases Need to Be Work-Related?
No, PI claims apply whenever another party is responsible for someone else’s injury. If the previously-discussed slip and fall injury happened in a retail store or even on another person’s residential property, the injured party could still sue for damages assuming that they could prove fault.
Types of PI Cases
We stated earlier that “personal injury” was a broad category of legal action. In truth, it’s more of an umbrella term. It accounts for multiple types of cases, including:
- Slip and fall accidents
- Other workplace injuries
- Product liability (for faulty products that the injured party purchased and was harmed by)
- Medical malpractice
- Auto accidents (including car, truck, motorcycle, and even Uber/Lyft crashes)
- Aviation accidents (plane crashes)
- Nursing home abuse and neglect
- Animal/dog bites
- Physical assault (in which case “fault” encompasses action rather than negligence)
These are just some common types of tort cases that one might sue for. There are other types of personal injury cases as well, though they are less common. If you sustained broken bones, soft tissue injuries, traumatic brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, or psychological damage, it’s worth looking into making a claim.
Worker’s Compensation 101
Worker’s compensation lawsuits are very similar to personal injury cases at first brush. Both types of cases revolve around injuries.
Both major injuries and minor injuries are covered by worker’s compensation. The ins and outs of worker’s comp likely are outlined in company handbooks.
There are three main differences between a PI suit and a worker’s compensation claim: the need to prove fault, the party responsible for the injury, and the damages that you’re entitled to.
Do You Need to Prove Fault for Worker’s Comp?
The first and most important difference between PI cases and worker’s compensation claims is the need to prove fault.
Proving fault is the main action that you must take to win any personal injury case.
The success of a tort claim relies on the ability to prove that the other party could have prevented your injury. They owe you money on the basis of negligence or action rather than simply you being injured.
This is not true of worker’s compensation.
Worker’s comp cases do not require you to prove fault. Any employee who is injured while on the job is entitled to benefits through worker’s compensation (with very few exceptions). There’s no need to prove that your employer was negligent or took action that harmed you.
If the employee that we discussed earlier fell down the stairs due to their own negligence after their employer took necessary precautions, they still could obtain worker’s compensation.
The Location of Worker’s Compensation Claims vs PI Claims
As the name suggests, worker’s compensation is only offered to those who sustain injuries while on the job. It also may extend to those who are injured on company property outside of work hours, but this is not always the case.
If someone fell down the stairs in a shopping center, they could not file for worker’s compensation. They may be able to file a PI lawsuit if the shopping center were at fault. If there were no way to prove fault, though, the injured party would be out of luck.
Differences in Personal Injury vs Worker’s Comp Damages
Both PI and worker’s comp damages cover medical bills and lost work time. They also both cover permanent impairment benefits and vocational rehabilitation.
However, PI claims also cover pain and suffering and hedonic damages. Worker’s compensation does not cover these damages. The reason for this is that worker’s compensation is an agreement between employees and business owners.
In the past, if the employee did not sue for personal injury and win their case based on fault, they got nothing. Worker’s compensation is a compromise, and it’s because of this compromise that only basic damages are covered.
Can You Sue an Employer for Personal Injury Instead of Getting Worker’s Comp?
There’s no getting around the fact that a PI case can get you better compensation than a worker’s compensation claim can. For this reason, it’s easy to wonder why people wouldn’t just sue their employers any time they sustained workplace injuries.
In almost every case, employees are contractually prohibited from suing their employers. This is because injuries are generally covered by worker’s compensation.
The reasoning for this prohibition goes back to the fact that worker’s compensation is a compromise between workers and their employers. Employees get the benefit of not needing to prove fault. Employers get the benefit of safety from costly lawsuits in exchange.
What Sets Wrongful Death Lawsuits Apart?
Let’s go back to our hypothetical worker who has fallen down a flight of stairs at work. Imagine that rather than sustaining a nonfatal injury, he sustained a head injury and passed away.
In cases of wrongful death, the rules regarding suing the company do not apply. If negligence or misconduct in the workplace results in death, those who survive the deceased may file a wrongful death claim.
In order to succeed in obtaining compensation for wrongful death, those filing the suit must prove three things:
- The person that they are filing on behalf of is actually dead,
- This death took place as a result of the accused party’s negligence, and
- The survivor filing the suit has suffered financial damage as a result of the death.
The first point is easy to prove, but the latter two require professional legal assistance. An experienced Georgia wrongful death attorney can help you prove your case and get the damages that you are owed.
Do Wrongful Death Claims Need to Be the Result of Workplace Injury?
Like personal injury cases, wrongful death suits can be directed at any party whose actions or negligence caused the fatality. This includes medical malpractice, faulty products, auto accidents, and employer negligence.
The main difference between these two types of lawsuits is that personal injury is for nonfatal injuries. Wrongful death is for fatal ones.
A wrongful death lawsuit can be filed even if the person did not die at the site of the injury. The fatal injury simply must have been sustained on the third party’s property or taken place due to their negligence.
Wrongful death is also unlike personal injury cases in that it supersedes worker’s compensation. There are no restrictions on suing employers.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim?
In Georgia, the following parties can file for wrongful death:
- Surviving spouse of the deceased (get top priority in GA, entitled to 1/3 of the damages regardless of who files)
- Surviving children
- Surviving parents (if there is no surviving spouse or children)
- Estate representatives
Any of these family members can claim financial losses such as lost wages. They also may be able to claim intangible losses like pain/suffering, loss of companionship, and similar benefits.
Like a personal injury claim and unlike a worker’s compensation claim, you can get damages for pain and suffering in the event of a wrongful death.
Estate representatives aim to instead make up for financial losses after the death took place. These losses might include medical costs, funeral fees, and burial costs.
Is Your Case Personal Injury, Wrongful Death, or Worker’s Compensation?
So, how do you know which type of claim you should file with a Georgia attorney?
Worker’s compensation claims are the right choice when:
- Someone is injured on company property (of their employer)
- This injury is not fatal
- There is a clause stipulating that the employee cannot sue because worker’s comp is available
- The injured party cannot prove fault/negligence
- The injury was a result of the injured party’s negligence or error
Since worker’s comp claims will get you fewer damages that personal injury cases will entitle you to, they’re the best option for those who do not have other alternatives.
Personal injury claims are ideal in the following situations:
- An injury is not fatal
- The injury does not take place in their workplace
- The injured party is able to prove fault/negligence with the help of an attorney
- You believe you are entitled to damages including pain and suffering
PI cases are the most favorable option for those who were nonfatally injured. While the injured party must prove fault, they can file after any injury regardless of where it happened. They also can give you more compensation than worker’s comp can.
Wrongful death cases are reserved for the following scenarios:
- The injury was fatal
- You are a party who is legally able to file a wrongful death claim
- The death took place either on the employee’s company property or anywhere else
- You are able to prove fault/negligence on behalf of the deceased
- The person filing suffered postmortem financial losses
Ultimately, an attorney can help you determine which type of case is right for you. There are exceptions to every rule, so it’s important to reach out to an expert to know for sure.
Begin Filing Your Claim With Top Georgia Attorneys
It can be difficult to decide whether your claim falls under personal injury, wrongful death, or worker’s compensation. However, with some background knowledge and the help of a legal professional, making this decision and receiving damages is a much simpler process.
Now that you know what type of lawsuit to file, it’s time to begin talking with a Georgia lawyer about your claim. Our legal team is committed to helping you start filing your case and beginning negotiations to get fair compensation. Contact us for a free case evaluation and to answer any questions that you may have.