What Happens After A Work-Related Car Accident?
Our jobs seem to get more and more demanding with every year that goes by.
It seems like we can never escape work no matter how hard we try.
With email smartphones, tablets, and laptops, many of us can take our work with us wherever we go, and we are always available.
We do more and more work just to get the promotion that comes with even more work.
Some of that extra work involves running errands for your company.
Driving around for work isn't limited to just delivery drivers, and you could find yourself driving around for a variety of reasons while you're "on the clock."
But that puts you in the position to be involved in a car accident.
With work-life boundaries getting blurrier by the minute, you need to be sure you understand your legal rights if you're ever involved in a car accident while you're working or traveling for work.
In the article below, we will talk about the overlap between worker's compensation claims and car accidents.
- What Exactly Is Work-Related?
- Personal Injury and Workers' Compensation
- Can I File A Workers' Compensation Claim and a Personal Injury Claim?
- When You Should Hire an Attorney
What Exactly Is "Work-Related?"
Workers' compensation rules will change from state to state.
However, any state you live in will require that your injury is "work-related" or tied to a job-related purpose in order for you to receive workers' comp benefits.
If you are injured where you work, your injury will typically be considered work-related, although there could be exceptions to that rule.
If you're involved in a car accident while driving or riding in a car for work-related reasons outside of your workplace, you can also be covered by workers' compensation.
Some examples of this include:
- Running errands for your job
- Making deliveries
- Driving another employee for work-related reasons
- You drive for a living
- You travel for work without a permanent office
- You get paid for travel time
Only in rare situations will you be able to receive workers' compensation benefits if you are injured in a car accident traveling to or from work.
For instance, if you pick up supplies for the office on your way to work and were involved in a car accident, there's a chance you will be covered by workers' comp.
Personal Injury and Workers Compensation
If you're injured while driving for work, you may have the right to bring a personal injury claim against the other driver along with pursuing workers' compensation benefits.
Filing a personal injury claim against the at-fault driver could get you compensation for your medical bills and other losses that were a result of the car accident.
That could mean filing a third-party insurance claim directly with the other driver's insurance company or filing a personal injury lawsuit.
There are a few major differences between a personal injury claim and a workers' compensation claim.
How To File
An eligible employee must file a workers' compensation claim according to the procedures laid out under state law.
That usually means your employer will file the initial paperwork with the state agency, or you may start a claim with your state's workers compensation agency or appeals board.
If you file a personal injury lawsuit, you will file in the local branch of your state's civil court system.
Pain and Suffering
The biggest difference between a workers' compensation claim and a personal injury claim is the variety of damages that you will be able to recover.
With workers comp, you typically receive payments only for certain quantifiable losses, like medical bills and lost income, and there are usually maximums laid out.
There are no pain and suffering damages in workers' compensation claims like there are in personal injury claims.
Also, workers' compensation benefits do not include compensation for vehicle damage, but personal injury compensation does.
Another key difference between the two is the idea of "fault."
When you bring a personal injury claim against another driver, you have to prove fault, or that the other driver caused the car accident.
With workers' compensation, you don't need to prove that anyone else caused the crash.
You could be responsible for the accident and still receive workers' compensation benefits as long as you were driving for a work-related purpose and you weren't under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Another distinction between a personal injury claim and workers comp has to do with timing.
If you get injured at work, including car accidents, you have to report the accident immediately, or within a certain amount of days.
The sooner the better, though, because if you wait too long, it could be hard to prove that the injuries were sustained while you were working and not at home or somewhere else.
There's generally a much larger window where you can file an actual workers comp claim, and that could range from one to three years.
With a personal injury claim, your only time limit comes from your state's statute of limitations deadline.
It will vary from state to state, but it is never shorter than a year from the accident.
Can I File A Workers' Compensation Claim and a Personal Injury Claim?
The way the workers' compensation system interacts with a personal injury claim is very confusing.
You usually don't have to choose between one or the other and are free to file both.
Even if you accept workers' compensation benefits from your employer, you still have the right to seek damages from the driver who caused the accident.
However, if you do receive workers' compensation benefits, your employer or their insurance company may put a lien against the damages you receive from a third party.
So, if you receive $10,000 from workers' compensation, and then you win $20,000 in a personal injury case, your employer might have a $10,000 lien on your settlement.
That basically means they get their $10,000 back.
When You Should Hire An Attorney
Accidents can happen to the very best drivers, whether they are working or not.
A car accident itself is stressful enough, but that stress is usually amplified when it happens during work hours.
If another negligent driver caused the accident, you need to be sure you get the compensation you deserve.
You might be at-fault for the accident, but you still deserve protection.
Because of the confusing way personal injury claims and workers' compensation work together, and for the fact that workers' compensation claims won't cover everything, you should hire a lawyer.
Car accidents are complicated. A car accident while you are working is even more complicated.
At the very least, you need to schedule a free consultation with an attorney to see what's at stake for you.
To schedule that consultation today, click the button below.
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