Personal Injury Claim Vs. Workers’ Comp: What Is The Difference?

Many New York construction workers are often confused about the various legal options that may exist following an on-the-job injury. In some instances, this confusion stems from misinformation given to them by their employers or supervisors, while in other cases they simply haven't been provided with the facts they need to make informed legal decisions.

The first step to eliminating this confusion is to understand the two primary legal options that often exist following a serious construction accident:

  • Workers' compensation: Workers' comp is a form of insurance that employers carry to help cover various expenses incurred by injured workers, including medical expenses and a percentage of lost wages.
  • Third-party/personal injury claim: A third-party claim is essentially a personal injury suit against a third party that is liable for your injury, i.e., someone other than your employer or co-worker. In the context of construction, third-party claims are often filed against general contractors and property owners, and typically involve instances in which injuries are caused by violations of Labor Law provisions such as Labor Law Section 240 (the Scaffolding Law) and Labor Law Section 241.

Significant Differences Between The Two

While there are many differences between workers' compensation and a third-party claim, the most important differences in the eyes of construction accident victims include:

  • Third-party claims allow construction accident victims to seek 100 percent of their lost wages (including future lost wages), while workers' comp only covers a percentage of lost wages.
  • Third-party claims allow construction accident victims to seek damages for pain and suffering, while workers' comp does not.
  • Third-party claims allow construction accident victims to seek compensation to cover all medical expenses related to the construction accident for life, while medical care under workers' comp may eventually be cut off or limited, depending on the circumstances.

While you can seek both legal options at the same time, it is important to keep in mind that a workers' comp settlement can impact your third-party claim, and vice versa. For instance, if you accept a Section 32 lump-sum workers' comp settlement, you may be required to testify that you are OK and don't need future medical care — which can negatively affect your third-party claim.

Alternatively, if you settle your third-party lawsuit, your recovery may be reduced to reimburse your employer's workers' comp insurance provider for benefits already paid. In addition, if your employer finds out about your third-party settlement after it is finalized, you may lose your right to receive any workers' comp benefits.

This is why it is so important to coordinate both your workers' comp and third-party claims, as it is the only way to ensure you maximize your recovery.

Find Out What Legal Options Are Best For You

The truth is that not every construction accident will involve a possible third-party claim, but if it does, you risk settling for far less than you deserve if you only seek workers' compensation benefits.

Contact Edelman & Edelman, P.C., today to speak with one of our knowledgeable, compassionate construction accident lawyers. We can review the circumstances of your accident and help determine whether a third-party claim exists — and if so, we will coordinate with a workers' compensation attorney to make sure you don't leave any money on the table.

Call our office today at 212-235-1197 to schedule an initial consultation. You can also reach us online. Don't settle for less than you are entitled to.

Se habla Español | Mowimy po Polsku