Hurt in a Work-Related Car Accident?
When people suffer injuries in a car accident while performing activities that are tied to their jobs or while engaging in some other type of work-related activity, they may be able to recover compensation from a variety of sources. In addition to workers’ compensation benefits through their employer’s insurance company, victims may be able to file a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault driver, the vehicle manufacturer, or even a mechanic.
Determining who to sue and how much a work-related car accident is worth, however, requires navigating the legal intersection between a workers’ compensation claim and a car accident claim.
What Is a Work-Related Car Accident?
Employers are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance to cover their employees who become injured on the job. Determining whether some types of accidents are work-related, like falls from heights at a construction site or getting caught in a machine, is simple. For car accidents that occur away from work, however, it can be a little more complicated. To evaluate whether a crash is work-related, a workers’ compensation attorney will evaluate a number of factors. People will generally be covered by workers’ compensation insurance if the accident happens when:
- They are making deliveries in a personal or company-owned vehicle.
- They are performing a job-related task.
- The employer benefitted from the service the worker was providing.
- They are traveling for work.
When employees are injured in a crash that occurs while they are commuting to or from work, running a personal errand on the clock, or in the midst of committing a crime, they are not generally entitled to workers’ compensation benefits.
Does Fault Matter?
The workers’ compensation system is designed to be a no-fault system, and almost all work-related accidents are covered by the workers’ comp insurance company regardless of who was at fault. For work-related car crashes, however, fault for the accident may impact the way benefits are paid and how much compensation the injured employee can recover.
The Difference Between Workers’ Compensation and Personal Injury Claims
Whether the worker, the other driver, a defective motor vehicle part, or dangerous road design is determined to have caused or contributed to the accident, workers’ compensation will typically pay only for the injured employee’s medical costs, and a portion of his or her lost wages. Injured workers do not receive compensation for other losses when they only file a workers’ comp claim. When workers or passengers are seriously injured or left completely disabled after a work-related crash, the benefits provided by workers’ compensation insurance may not be enough.
When a personal injury claim or a lawsuit is filed against the at-fault party, however, additional damages may be available. Injured workers who file a third-party personal injury claim may be entitled to:
- Pain and suffering
- The remainder of the worker’s lost wages
- Emotional trauma
- Punitive damages
Bringing Both a Workers’ Comp Claim and a Personal Injury Claim
Workers who accept workers’ compensation benefits from their employer still have the right to file a personal injury claim against the at-fault driver or other entity who caused the wreck. Filing both types of claims simultaneously can help injured employees maximize their compensation. The way the claims impact each other, however, can be complicated. Fault for the crash, whether the at-fault driver carried enough liability insurance to cover all of the damages, and the state in which the accident occurred all play a role in determining how the claims are paid.
In some cases, the workers’ comp insurance company may place a lien on the injured workers’ personal injury settlement received from a third-party claim. In other cases, when the at-fault driver doesn’t have car insurance or carries minimum coverage that is not enough to cover the damages, injured workers may be able to file a claim with their own car insurance company to recover their losses.