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Personal Injury & Workers' Comp: What's the Difference?

Person signing medical forms on a clipboard while having a cast on their right arm.

After suffering a workplace injury, you may be wondering what legal options are available to cover your injuries and other damages. Depending on the circumstances of your case, you may have two options: file a workers’ compensation claim or a personal injury lawsuit.

Workers’ comp is a mandatory insurance program for all employers, which compensates employees in the event of an injury on the job. Workers can claim insurance payments--no matter who was at fault.

On the other hand, in order to recover monetary damages in a personal injury lawsuit, you must prove that the at-fault party acted in a negligent manner that caused your injury. You must show that the other party failed to exercise reasonable care in a fashion which resulted in harm.

While financial compensation is available through both routes, there are several differences between the two which determine which process is suitable for your case.

Determining Fault

As we mentioned before, you need to show that the other party (most likely was at fault to succeed. You carry the burden of convincing the jury that another person or entity is at fault for your injury. To meet this burden, you (and your attorney) must prepare and present evidence that demonstrates the defendant owed some legal duty to you, breached this duty and such a breach caused you to suffer damages.

In a workers’ compensation claim, you do not need to establish fault. An employee can often receive benefits--even if the employee was at fault.


In a personal injury case, you are entitled to all forms of damages that you have suffered. This includes medical expenses, future medical expense, lost wages, lost earning capacity, permanent impairment, as well as pain and suffering.

But in a worker’s compensation claim, you can only receive medical expenses, weekly compensation, permanent impairment benefits, and vocational rehabilitation. You cannot obtain damages for pain and suffering in a workers’ comp case.

Ability to Sue

According to Oklahoma workers’ compensation laws, all workers who suffer a workplace injury would receive weekly benefits and would get their medical bills covered. In return, injured workers lose the right to sue their employers and co-workers for negligence, thus losing the right to pain and suffering.

Can You Do Both?

In some cases, yes. These are known as combination cases.

If a third party--a person or entity who is unrelated to the employee’s job--caused the accident or injury, then you may file a separate personal injury lawsuit against that party. At the same time, you may receive workers’ compensation benefits from your employer.

For more information, contact our Norman personal injury attorney at the Law Offices of Keith J. Nedwick, P.C. today.

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