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Do I Have a Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Claim or a Personal Injury Lawsuit?

People who have been injured are often confused about what legal options they have to receive compensation. It can become more confusing if you were working at the time of the injury. The confusion often comes because people do not understand the difference between filing a workers’ compensation claim and filing a personal injury lawsuit.

What Does Workers’ Compensation Cover?

Each individual state in the United States administers its own workers’ compensation system. The Department of Industrial Accidents, or DIA, is responsible for the administration of workers’ compensation claims and benefits in Massachusetts.

The workers’ compensation system is intended to cover an employee who is injured or becomes ill on the job. This does not, however, always mean that the injury or illness has to technically take place at your place of work. For example, if you are traveling for your job when you are injured, running an errand for your employer, or even attending a work-related social function or conference, you may be covered by workers’ compensation if you are injured. Likewise, if you become ill as a result of inhaling toxic substances or coming into contact with a dangerous substance during the course of your employment, you may be covered even if the injury does not present itself for some time after the original exposure.

If you are unsure whether your situation is a work-related injury, consult with a Massachusetts workers’ compensation attorney.

The workers’ compensation system operates on a no-fault system, meaning that you do not need to prove that your employer was negligent to be entitled to benefits. You are only required to prove the injury or illness and that it is work-related. Benefits under the workers’ compensation system are limited. If you qualify, you may receive medical treatment, wage replacement, and in some cases a one-time lump sum payment for permanent loss of function and disfigurement. The amount of your benefits is figured by a formula that is based on your wages prior to the injury. Damages for pain and suffering or punitive damages are not available under the workers’ compensation system.

What Is a Personal Injury Lawsuit?

A personal injury lawsuit is based on the concept of negligence.  Unlike the workers’ compensation system, a personal injury lawsuit requires the victim to prove that the defendant was negligent, or at fault, in some way in order to be entitled to compensation. If, for example, if you are a customer in a store and are injured, you may be entitled to file a personal injury lawsuit if you can prove that the store owner was negligent.

If you are successful in a personal injury lawsuit, you may be entitled to compensation for both economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages are things like lost wages, medical bills and property damages. Non-economic damages represent the emotional injuries you suffered as a result of the injuries. Punitive damages are intended to punish the defendant and are only awarded in situations where the defendant’s actions warrant the award of punitive damages.

Can an Employee Ever Sue an Employer?

As a general rule, an employee injured on the job is limited to filing a workers’ compensation claim for those injuries. An employee does not have an option to “opt out” of the workers’ compensation system in favor of filing a personal injury lawsuit. There are, however, exceptions to the general rule. If the employer was not covered by workers’ compensation coverage at the time of the accident the employee may be able to file a lawsuit against the employer. In addition, if your employer’s conduct was intentional or particularly egregious, you may be able to file a lawsuit outside of the workers’ compensation system. A personal injury lawsuit may also be allowed against a third party that caused the workplace injury.

Talk To a Workers’ Compensation Attorney

If you feel that your situation may fall outside the general rules regarding work-related injuries, talk to an experienced Massachusetts workers’ compensation attorney to find out if you have other legal options. The Massachusetts workplace injury lawyers at Kantrovitz& Associates, P.C. are here to help. If you would like to know what legal options you have for a work-related injury, we can be reached by calling 800-367-0871 or by using our online contact form.