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Workers’ Compensation vs. Personal Injury Litigation – What’s the Difference?

Personal-Injury-LitigationSo you’ve been injured on the job—maybe in a motor vehicle accident while handling a workrelated task, or you were hurt when a machine or tool malfunctioned. In New Jersey, as in other states, you have a right to seek compensation for any disability that prevents you from working. However, a car accident or product liability claim may also be the basis for a personal injury lawsuit.

In an earlier blog, we looked at what are known as “third party lawsuits” for injuries suffered while working. We talked about the situations where you can file a workers’ compensation claim simultaneously with a personal injury action. But what are the fundamental differences between a workers’ compensation claim and a personal injury lawsuit?

The Question of Fault

In a personal injury action filed in civil court, one of the key elements that must be proven is fault. To recover any compensation, the injured party (the plaintiff) must demonstrate to the court that some other person caused his/her injury, either in whole or in part. In fact, if the plaintiff is partially responsible for his or her injury, the damage award will be reduced and may even be rejected.

On the contrary, the New Jersey workers’ compensation law is a “no-fault” system—there’s no need on the part of the injured party to show negligence. In fact, there are only two requirements—the injured party must show that he or she was injured and that the injury occurred during the course of employment.

The Compensation Available

One of the unique characteristics of the workers’ compensation system is that it provided relatively fixed benefits. The amount that will paid to an injured worker will be calculated based on his or her average weekly wage, as well as the degree of disability. There is, however, a ceiling to the amount that will be paid, and an injured worker will typically only receive compensation for lost wages and reasonable and necessary medical expenses.

In a personal injury lawsuit, there’s generally no such limit. While a jury can attempt to calculate damages based on lost income, the jury can also award compensation for certain non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering or loss of companionship/consortium.

Contact Attorney Howard D. Popper

To learn your options after a personal injury, contact our office online or call attorney Popper at 973-993-8787. We have offices in Morristown and Newton, but will come to your home or the hospital, if necessary. There is no charge for your first consultation. We handle all personal injury claims on a contingency basis. You won’t be charged any legal fees unless attorney Popper recovers compensation for your losses.

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