The Difference Between Workers’ Compensation and Personal Injury Claims

When a person or a company behaves carelessly and causes harm to another, injury victims have rights. The law recognizes that injuries can have a significant impact on the future, and victims alone should not have to bear the burden of another’s negligence. This is true both in your personal life and on the job. However, there are different systems in place to address these situations depending on the circumstances. Work-related injuries are typically treated differently than those suffered outside the scope of employment. In general, workers’ compensation provides benefits to those injured on the job, while a personal injury claim is used for other situations. Here, we take a look at these two options to help injury victims better understand their rights going forward.

Understanding Alaska Workers’ Compensation

Like in other states, Alaska workers’ compensation is designed to help employees who suffer an injury or illness related to their work. This system operates similar to health insurance—when an injury is suffered, employees can file for benefits. These benefits can provide medical care and compensation to help the injured worker and his family. There are many different types of benefits that address a wide range of injuries, from those addressing temporary conditions with a brief recovery period to those that can cover a worker who experiences a lifelong disability.

Workers’ compensation benefits are awarded regardless of fault. As long as the injury was sustained by an employee during the course of employment or an illness was caused by workplace exposure, workers are eligible for these benefits.

What Is a Personal Injury Claim?

A personal injury claim is a legal case that is filed by an accident victim against the responsible party. For example, a person who is injured in a car accident may file a claim against the careless driver who caused the crash. In addition to compensation for medical care and lost wages, victims may also pursue damages for pain and suffering in a personal injury case. In these cases, the victim must present a case that makes clear that the other party was at fault.

Which Claim Is Appropriate for Your Injury?

Most often, compensation for any injury suffered on the job would have to be pursued through the workers’ compensation system. In exchange for disregarding fault, the system typically shields employers from liability. This agreement benefits both employees, who may be partially responsible for their injuries, and employers, who seek to avoid lengthy and costly legal battles. So, it is not typically possible to file a work-related personal injury claim.

Exceptions to the Work Injury Rules in Alaska

There are, of course, exceptions to every rule, and work injury claims are no different. While in general you must use the workers’ compensation system to obtain medical care and compensation after a work injury, there are times when it is possible to file a personal injury claim, including:

  • If you are a fisherman or work on a commercial boat. By law, most fishermen are not covered by the traditional workers’ compensation system. The Alaska Fishermen’s Fund can provide some benefits, and the federal Jones Act also gives seamen the right to sue their employer depending on the specifics of the accident or injury.
  • If you were injured by a third party. A third party is a person or entity other than the employee and employer who may cause injury while a worker is on the job. A drunk driver who causes a crash while you are on the road for work, or a manufacturer who has provided a defective part for equipment may be held liable for their carelessness.
  • If your employer intentionally harmed you. This is an extremely rare and difficult situation, but if your employer takes action to knowingly and deliberately cause you injury, they can be held liable outside the workers’ compensation system.

An Experienced Alaska Attorney Can Help

If you’ve suffered an injury on the job, it can be difficult to know where to go for help. As you deal with your injuries and face your recovery, determining your rights can be confusing. Anchorage-based attorney Ben Crittenden practices both personal injury and workers’ compensation law, and he can help you learn more about your situation to determine the best way forward. Even if you aren’t sure what kind of claim you might be able to file, or if you can even file one at all, call Ben or fill out the contact form on this page. You’ll get in touch directly with Ben, who can answer your questions and ensure your rights are protected.