The work of an injury attorney can seem a lot like that of one who handles workers' compensation cases. If you've been hurt, particularly at work, you may wonder what the difference is between the two fields of law. Let's look at what four of the differences are.
Paying into the System
One of the main reasons there is a workers compensation system is to ensure a fairly common source of accidents, work, is covered in the majority of instances without needing lots of lawsuits. This is accomplished by both workers and employers paying into the system. Specifically, there is an insurance company that provides a policy to cover a company's employees.
When something happens, the worker files a claim through the system. If no one objects, the claim is paid. If there are objections and the worker wants to have their case heard, they can hire a workers compensation attorney and have a judge hear their arguments.
Conversely, a personal injury case usually occurs in a non-employment situation. For example, a customer at a store slips on a floor and sues the business for poor maintenance that led to their injuries.
Speed of the Claims Process
Generally, workers' compensation claims are handled within a couple of months. The statute of limitations on personal injury claims usually allows two to three years after an incident to officially file.
When a Workplace Claim Is an Injury Case
There are rare cases where a workplace injury case becomes a personal injury claim. For example, an employer might have failed to pay for workers' compensation insurance. Similarly, there are scenarios where contract workers are injured on the job. Also, a handful of maritime employment arrangements may be injury claims rather than comp cases.
Dealing with the Differences
If you are injured at work, it's wise to start by assuming you have a compensation claim. Notify a supervisor and make sure the incident is thoroughly documented. If it turns out you need to file a personal injury claim, you can still take advantage of the documentation to handle it. More importantly, you'll be ahead of the curve on the shorter timeline if it happens to be a workers' compensation case.
Talk with a workers' compensation attorney first. If it appears you have one of the rare cases that's an injury claim, then they can treat it as that kind of case or point you to someone who's qualified to handle it.