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Work-Related Car Accident? Is Your Case Work Comp, Personal Injury…or Both?

Work Related AccidentWhen drivers are injured on the job, the usual remedy that they would pursue to be paid for their injuries is to file for workers’ compensation benefits.

There is a legal question involved as to what the proper remedy is when one is in a work-related car accident.

Injured workers wonder whether they must go through the workers’ compensation system or whether they can sue someone else. A public road is still a work environment if an employee is on company time.

The ideal situation is to be able to bring a personal injury claim although it is seldom allowed.

Many different people need to drive for work. Common examples are truck drivers and delivery persons who drive the company vehicle on a daily basis. Even people who take their own personal car with them on things like sales calls would be considered to be on the job if they have an auto accident behind the wheel. This would certainly apply when they are in a company car or pickup truck.

In an ideal case, the injured worker would be able to both file a workers’ compensation claim and file a lawsuit against another person after a motor vehicle accident. It would be both a work-related injury as well as a personal injury.

In most cases, workers must pursue a workers’ compensation claim as their exclusive remedy for occupational injuries. In other words, accident victims cannot file a personal injury lawsuit against their employer.

The entire reason for the workers’ compensation system is to protect employers while still allowing injured employees to recover financial compensation.

Workers cannot file both a workers’ compensation claim as well as a civil lawsuit against their employer. They also do not get to choose between a workers’ comp claim and a negligence suit against their own company. Their employer is largely protected unless certain very limited exceptions apply.

For example, in Illinois, you cannot even sue your employer for gross negligence, an exception that exists in many other states. In Illinois, you can only sue your employer for job-related injuries if they intentionally caused your injuries or if they do not have workers’ compensation insurance. These exceptions are extremely rare.

Using Personal Injury Law to Obtain Compensation for a Motor Vehicle Accident

However, as a workers’ compensation lawyer could advise you, the general rule may not apply if you have been in a work-related accident with a third party. In this case, you may be able to sue the person who was responsible for the accident in a personal injury case.

The reason why you would want to be able to sue a third party for a car accident is because it would increase your possible recovery. Workers compensation claims are limited in some respects.

While you can recover for lost wages and medical bills in a workers’ compensation case, you are not able to recover for things such as pain and suffering, future lost earnings, mental anguish and property damage to your personal vehicle. Illinois employees may not receive non-economic losses but could receive the following economic losses in a workers’ comp claim:

  • Lost wages for the time that you have missed from work (future lost wages are not covered)
  • Medical bills and other medical expenses
  • Wrongful death benefit
  • The ongoing costs of care.

While it does cover medical treatment, workers’ comp does not typically cover non-economic injuries. Accordingly, as an employee, you may be looking for ways to go around the system to increase your recovery in a personal injury lawsuit. There are other injuries and damages that will lead to a more lucrative personal injury settlement with the auto insurer or a jury award in motor vehicle crashes.

Thus, the ideal situation is to be able to both file a workers’ compensation claim and to be able to file a lawsuit against a third-party for a work-related auto accident. You could also file a claim with an auto insurance company.

You would be able to do this if there is someone else whose actions are responsible for your injuries in the automobile accident. This would mean that their negligence was the cause of the car accident.

Another way that an employer’s workers could also file a lawsuit against a third party for accident injuries is if you were filing a product liability lawsuit against the maker or the vehicle or a part.

If you were injured due to a defective car or truck, you can file a lawsuit against the manufacturer and likely recover damages much higher than you would if you filed a claim through the a workers’ compensation claim .

Even if you were at fault for the accident, if you were on the job, you would still be able to file a workers’ compensation case to pay your for your injuries in a vehicle collision. This is a no-fault system that is largely not concerned with negligence or who was responsible for the accident. There are very few exceptions to this.

However, if the employee was engaged in intentional misconduct or reckless behavior such as being drunk at the time of the accident, they may not be able to file a workers’ compensation claim. You may also not have the ability to file a claim if you were using the work vehicle on your own personal time or for a non work-related reason

You can think of the workers’ compensation as a middle ground. The worker is protected, even if they were at fault for the accident. However, their amount of recovery is limited because they cannot recover for certain things.

To learn more about your legal rights and to obtain legal representation, contact a personal injury lawyer at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers to set up a free consultation for legal advice.