Today's employees are finding themselves spending more time in their cars for work-related reasons, whether it involves running errands or traveling to meet clients. However, this also puts employees at greater risk of being involved in an auto accident. Most employees understand how to initiate a workers compensation claim for on-premises injuries, but a work-related auto accident can be a different story.
What are the Conditions?
Many states have differing guidelines when it comes to handling workers compensation claims. One common requirement, however, is that any injury that's the subject of a workers compensation claim must have occurred while you're on the job. That's easy to establish if your injuries happen at the office or the warehouse, but it gets a bit trickier when you're behind the wheel.
In most cases, there are only a few scenarios where you'll be eligible for workers compensation after an auto accident:
- You're a long-haul truck driver, delivery driver, or other employee for whom driving is an occupation.
- You remain mobile at all times because you don't have a fixed office.
- You're transporting other employees to or from the office or worksite.
- Your employer pays for your time as you travel to or from home.
- You stopped to pick up supplies for the office on your way to work.
If you're headed straight to work or straight home, however, you won't be eligible for workers compensation benefits if you were involved in an auto accident. Instead, you'll have to rely on your own insurer and initiate a personal injury claim for other expenses.
Workers Compensation Claim or Personal Injury Claim?
In addition to a workers compensation claim, you may be able to make a personal injury claim against the driver responsible for the accident. There's nothing restricting you from making one type of claim if you've already made the other. In some cases, a personal injury claim may be the only way to get certain types of compensation.
There are several differences to consider between a workers compensation claim and a personal injury claim:
- Workers compensation won't cover any damages caused to your vehicle or other property, even if you were on an active job for your employer. Such damages will have to be handled through a civil claim against the other driver.
- Workers compensation won't cover damages for physical or mental pain and suffering. These damages can only be recovered through a personal injury claim against the other driver.
- Workers compensation claims are typically handled in a court that specifically deals with workers compensation cases. Personal injury cases, on the other hand, are usually heard in state court.
When choosing an attorney for your personal injury case, you'll want one who is also knowledgeable about your state's workers compensation laws. This will insure that you receive a fair settlement for your personal injury claim regardless of what's happening on the workers compensation front.
Workers Compensation Liens on a Personal Injury Settlement
If you received workers compensation for lost wages and medical expenses and subsequently win a personal injury claim for the same incident, the insurance company responsible for the workers compensation may try to get some of its money back. This usually happens in the form of a lien placed against the personal injury settlement.
Most liens are for expenses paid out by the workers compensation carrier, including medical expenses and lost wages. Even when a personal injury claim is filed to cover damages that a workers compensation claim fails to cover, the insurer still has a right to reimbursement.
It's important for your attorney to include the cost of reimbursing the insurer when negotiating a settlement for your injuries. Although it's possible for a lien to exceed the potential settlement amount, most carriers will negotiate an amount for far less than their initial amount.
For more information and advice, talk to a lawyer at a law firm like Whiting, Hagg, Hagg, Dorsey & Hagg.