The Difference Between Personal Injury and Workers’ Compensation
by in News

Naturally, you hope that you can go through life without ever receiving an injury that might force you to seek a claim to receive compensation to cover medical costs, pain and suffering, or permanent disability.

The time, place, and circumstances surrounding an injury determine the type of claim you make, whether it’s a personal injury claim or a workers’ compensation claim. To clarify the differences between the two, keep reading.

Personal injury

If you receive an injury as the result of someone else’s failure to act or their negligence, it may be worth it to explore opening a personal injury claim. Generally, it falls to the plaintiff (injured party) to prove that the person responsible for your injury was negligent and that negligence directly resulted in your injury. Unlike workers’ compensation, the right to receive compensation isn’t tied to an injured person’s employment status.

Situations that the law considers personal injury includes medical malpractice, misdiagnosing a medical condition, slipping and falling on someone’s property, defective products, car crashes, dog bites, or collapsed buildings—although there are many other situations that might qualify.

New Jersey’s personal injury law includes a statute of limitations that gives the injured person up to two years from the original date of the injury to file a lawsuit against the offending party.

Unlike workers’ compensation, which is no-fault, personal injury cases may be deemed “shared fault.” More simply, it means that if your case goes to trial and you’re found to be partially at fault for the accident, you’ll receive compensation that’s adjusted to reflect the amount by which you’re deemed responsible. So, if you’re entitled to a $5,000 compensation but are considered 10% at fault, you would receive $4,500.

In New Jersey, punitive damages in injury cases are capped at five times the amount of compensatory damages or $350,000—whichever is greater; however, punitive damages are rarely awarded because they are designed to punish the defendant and aren’t tied to specific, tangible injuries.

Car accident cases

For car accident cases only, New Jersey uses a “choice no-fault” system. When you purchase car insurance, you have the option to choose a basic or standard policy. If you want to make an injury claim after a car accident, you must use your own personal injury protection (PIP) coverage; but PIP while claims don’t cover compensation for pain and suffering or other non-economic damages, it will speed up the payment for other out-of-pocket expenses.

You can, however, bypass the PIP system and file a lawsuit against the at-fault driver if the accident resulted in:

  • Loss of a body part
  • Significant disfigurement or scarring
  • A displaced fracture
  • Loss of a pregnancy
  • Permanent, life-long injury or disability
  • Death

Learn more about how no-fault accident claims work.

Dog bite/ attack cases

Unlike some other states, where dog owners are protected—to an extent—from injury liability when their dog injures someone the first time, provided that the dog gave no indication that it was dangerous, New Jersey considers owners “strictly liable.”

Regardless of a dog’s past behavior, its owner is held liable should the dog cause injury. The statute—New Jersey Statues section 4:19-16) reads:

The owner of any dog in a public place, or lawfully on or in a private place, including the property of the owner of the dog, shall be liable for such damages as may be suffered by the person bitten, regardless of the former viciousness of such dog or the owner’s knowledge of such viciousness.

Medical malpractice

This branch of personal injury law is more high-stakes and serious than other types of personal injury lawsuits. Plaintiffs are suing health care providers—and those lawsuits can lead to multimillion-dollar settlements. Medical malpractice occurs when the doctor, staff, or facility negligently injure a patient during treatment, surgery, or misdiagnosis, for example.

While the general statute of limitations for personal injury claims is two years, because injuries that stem from medical malpractice may not make themselves known for years after the original injury, New Jersey law allows for a discovery rule, which will delay the statute of limitations until the plaintiff discovers the injury.

Worker’s compensation

An early leader in the workers’ compensation movement, which was passed on April 3, 1911, New Jersey requires that all employers carry workers’ compensation insurance or another approved self-insurance. In 1979, the legislative reforms made to the law included a restructured payment benefit schedule that increased compensation to more seriously-injured workers. This no-fault insurance program offers employees who suffer job-related illnesses or injuries with:

  • Medical benefits
  • Temporary total benefits
  • Permanent total benefits
  • Partial total benefits
  • Death benefits to dependents of workers who have died as a result of their jobs

Because it is no-fault, injured workers receive benefits regardless of who is at fault; as a result, employees are unable to bring a civil action suit against their employers for damages like pain and suffering unless it’s proven that the act was intentional.

The workers’ compensation law provides injured workers with the right to receive medical treatment, the right to receive payment for lost time (temporary disability), and the right to receive payment for lingering effects of the injury (partial permanent disability) if the effects of the injury—like chronic pain, for example—are permanent.

Unlike personal injury cases, the compensation amounts awarded through workers’ compensation generally adhere to a set schedule. Employees injured on the job can receive temporary disability payments totaling of 70% up to an amount set by the State. Permanent health issues that result from the initial injury receive compensation based on a schedule that assigns a value to each part of the body from 1% to 100%.

First steps

When you do receive an injury that has affected your life and/or finances and isn’t merely a scratch but something more significant, it never hurts to consult an attorney. When you’re injured at work, the company will require you to complete paperwork and follow other steps to ensure that both you and the company are protected. On the other hand, if your injury occurred outside of work, here are some questions to ask that may help you determine what—if any—steps you should take next.

Leave a Reply