Sometimes when a person is injured in a motor vehicle accident, slip and fall or trip and fall, they can pursue a claim for personal injuries, known as pain and suffering, if their injuries were caused by the negligence of another person or business. Sometimes when a person is injured in a motor vehicle accident, slip and fall or trip and fall, they can pursue a worker's compensation claim for medical expenses and lost wages if their injury took place while they were in the course and scope of their employment at the time of the injury. In some cases a person injured in a motor vehicle accident, slip and fall or trip and fall can bring both a personal injury claim against the negligent person and a worker's compensation claim for medical expenses and lost wages arising out of the same injury, as long as the injured person was also working at the time of the injury.
Pursuing a negligence claim in the Court of Common Pleas and a worker's compensation claim before the Bureau of Worker's Compensation are separate and distinct claims, which can arise out of the same injury. Whenever a person is injured while working (acting within the course and scope of their employment), they are automatically entitled to worker's compensation benefits. Note that the only requirement to successfully pursue a worker's compensation claim is to establish that the person was working at the time of their injury. Significantly, an injured worker is not required to prove any type of "negligence" to prevail on a worker's compensation claim. Negligence has nothing to do with a worker's compensation claim. The fortunate aspect of pursuing a worker's compensation claim is that the injured worker does not have to prove that his employer was negligent (which he or she may not be able to prove in many work related injuries), thus making the burden of proof to prevail on a worker's compensation claim much easier. However, in return for this easier burden of proof, the law prevents an injured worker from pursuing a personal injury claim (pain and suffering) against his employer or coworkers when their negligence causes the work related injuries. Thus, worker's compensation benefits only pay for medical expenses and lost wages caused by the work injury.
On some occasions, the work related injury is actually caused by the negligence of a third person who is not associated with the injured person's employer. While the Worker's Compensation Act prevents an injured person from suing his or her employer and/or co-worker for personal injuries for negligently causing the worker's injury, the Worker's Compensation Act does not prevent the injured worker from pursuing a negligence claim against any other person or entity that negligently caused his or her work related injuries. Thus, whenever a person is injured while working and that injury is caused by the negligence of a third person not associated with his or her employer, the injured person can pursue both a worker's compensation claim against his or her employer for payment of their medical expenses and lost wages and a personal injury claim against the person or business that negligently caused their injuries. Typical examples of where an injured person can bring both claims is where the employee is in a motor vehicle driving somewhere for work related purposes and a third person negligently crashes into his vehicle by running a red traffic light, stop sign or rear-ends him while texting. Another example is where an employee of a business tenant slips or trips and falls in a common area of the building or property such as on a sidewalk or parking lot due to a defective condition that the landlord or property manager was responsible to maintain and negligently failed to do so. Here the employee can pursue both claims, a worker's compensation against his or her employer and a negligence action against the third party that caused his or her injuries.
Generally speaking it is favorable if an injured person can pursue both a worker's compensation claim and a negligence action for the same injury because they pay different damage claims at different time periods. In most situations, worker's compensation claims are not disputed by the employer and the injured employee's medical bills and lost wages are paid immediately when due by the employer's worker's compensation insurance carrier. Thus, in addition to not having to worry about paying the medical bills, the injured worker will continue to receive a wage loss check at the same weekly interval that he or she received their pay check from their employer before the injury. Thus, with worker's compensation, the injured person's short term needs are met. However, with a worker's compensation claim alone, the worker does not receive any money for his pain and suffering associated with his injuries. A negligence action on the other hand is the opposite. It normally takes a long time to resolve and ends in one lump sum amount of money that pays the injured worker for his or her pain and suffering from the injuries, plus medical expenses and lost wages. Negligence actions take a long time to conclude because the injured person only gets compensated once and therefore, the injured person should wait until they are done treating before attempting to resolve the claim and signing a release giving up all of their rights against the negligent party. Also, it is harder to prove a negligence claim which can result in protracted litigation. While a successful negligence action will in the long run fully compensate an injured person for his or her injuries, it can not take care of the injured person's short term needs immediately following the injury. There are also occasions where the injured person in a slip or trip and fall case may not have health insurance to pay their medical bills, causing short term financial stress in addition to the injuries. If an injured person can pursue both claims, then their short term needs of paying their medical bills and receiving lost wages can be met through worker's compensation benefits and their need to be compensated for their pain and suffering arising out of their injuries can be met in the long term through the negligence action.
The only affect of bringing both claims is that the money the injured person receives in the negligence action for payment of his or her medical bills and lost wages must be paid back to the worker's compensation carrier up to the amount of medical bills and lost wages that the injured person received through worker's compensation. This rule prevents the injured person from making a double recovery for medical expenses and lost wages, makes the negligent party correctly responsible to pay the medical expenses and lost wages caused by their negligent act and helps to keep costs down for worker's compensation insurance in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania which helps to attract more businesses to Pennsylvania.
If you suffer a work related injury arising out of a motor vehicle accident, trip and fall, slip and fall or some other type of injury caused by the negligence of a person or business other than your employer or coworker, you may be able to pursue a negligence action for pain and suffering in addition to your worker's compensation claim. Whenever you are injured by the negligence of another, you should always consult with an experienced personal injury lawyer to obtain maximum financial compensation for your injuries, lost wages and medical expenses.