Worker’s Compensation vs. Personal Injury Claims for Truck Accidents at Work

Friday, October 27, 2023

Worker’s Compensation vs. Personal Injury Claims for Truck Accidents at Work

Written by Malman Law, reviewed by Steve J. Malman.

If you’re involved in a truck accident in Illinois, you can either file a workers’ comp claim or pursue a personal injury lawsuit. It just depends on whether you were driving during working hours, or if you were involved in a truck accident at work with an outside contractor or vendor. A Chicago work injury attorney can advise on your best options.

Workers’ Compensation for Truck Drivers

As a truck driver injured in an accident in Illinois, you typically have two options for compensation: workers’ comp or a personal injury claim. Workers’ comp provides limited benefits, while a personal injury lawsuit aims to recover full damages.

Under workers’ comp, your medical bills and lost wages are covered by your employer’s insurance. It’s a no-fault system, meaning neither party is found liable. The benefits, however, have limits.

  • Medical care is covered, but you often must use doctors and facilities approved by the insurance company.
  • You’ll receive disability payments for time off work, but they’re limited to two-thirds of your average weekly wage.
  • The total payout for an injury is capped.
  • You waive the right to sue your employer for negligence.

Personal Injury Claims for On-the-Job Truck Accidents

In contrast, filing a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault party allows you to recover full compensation for your injuries and losses. This includes:

  • Unlimited medical expenses, both current and future.
  • Lost income, vacation pay, sick time, and retirement contributions.
  • Pain and suffering damages.
  • Property damage.
  • Punitive damages in some cases.

While the process is often lengthy, the potential payout is far greater. The choice comes down to your needs and priorities. Workers’ comp provides swift but limited benefits, while a personal injury claim aims for full compensation at the risk of a lengthy legal fight.

When Can Truckers File Workers’ Comp Claims?

If you’re injured while driving or handling freight as part of your job, you’re typically eligible for workers’ comp. This includes injuries from vehicle crashes, lifting heavy cargo, falls getting in and out of the truck, etc. The injury must arise out of and occur within the course of your employment.

Workers’ comp also covers occupational diseases from long-term exposure, like back strains from years of loading freight or the emergence of hearing loss from constant loud noises. The disease must be characteristic of and unique to the trucking field to qualify.

However, if your injury was caused by serious and willful misconduct, intoxication, or self-inflicted, you may be denied workers’ comp benefits. The same is true if you were not following proper safety procedures. Your employer must prove your actions rose to the level of willful misconduct for a claim denial.

The workers’ comp process may be complicated, so consider consulting with an attorney who handles trucking accidents and workers’ compensation cases regularly. They can help you understand your legal rights, file the necessary paperwork, and fight for the maximum benefits if your claim is denied.

Filing a Personal Injury Claim After a Work Accident

While workers’ compensation covers employees injured on the job, a personal injury claim allows truck drivers to pursue compensation for injuries from a truck accident caused by another party’s negligence, such as an outside vendor or contractor. As a trucker, it’s important to understand how these two options differ if you’re injured in a crash.

A worker’s compensation claim is made through your employer and provides coverage for medical bills and lost wages. However, as noted, it will not compensate you for pain and suffering or other damages such as the loss of consortium or the loss of quality of life.

Your employer pays into a state worker’s comp fund. As a result, you forfeit the right to sue them for injuries sustained on the job.

Damages for Personal Injury

On the other hand, a personal injury claim allows you to file a lawsuit against a negligent party – outside of your company – who is responsible for an on-the-job accident. This might include the driver of another vehicle or a contract laborer operating heavy machinery. If successful, you may be able to recover full compensation for:

  • Medical expenses (doctor visits, hospital stays, physical therapy, medications, etc.)
  • Lost income from missed work
  • Pain and suffering
  • Loss of enjoyment of life
  • Permanent injuries or disabilities

To pursue a personal injury claim, you’ll need to prove the other driver’s negligence and liability for the crash. An experienced truck accident lawyer can investigate the accident, determine who’s at fault, and fight to get you the maximum compensation possible. They can also handle negotiations with insurance companies on your behalf.

Key Differences Between Workers’ Comp and Personal Injury: Taking a Closer Look

While filing a workers’ comp claim and personal injury claim may seem similar, there are some key differences to understand.

Medical Expenses

Workers’ comp will cover any medical care related to your work injury, including hospital stays, physical therapy, medications, etc. A personal injury claim will include compensation for medical bills as well as damages for pain and suffering.

Lost Wages

If you miss work due to a work-related injury, workers’ comp will pay a portion of your lost wages. A personal injury claim may provide full compensation for all lost earnings as well as the future loss of earning capacity. This can be especially helpful if your injuries prevent you from returning to work.

Permanent Disability

Workers’ comp provides limited benefits for permanent disabilities based on a fixed schedule. A personal injury lawsuit offers the potential for significantly higher compensation, especially if your injuries seriously impact your quality of life or career.

Punitive Damages

Punitive damages are not available in a workers’ comp claim. However, if the other party’s negligence was particularly egregious, a personal injury lawsuit could result in punitive damages – damages designed to punish the at-fault party.

 

Workers’ Comp vs Personal Injury: Pros and Cons

While workers’ comp claims typically provide limited benefits, they also have a lower burden of proof, and the claims process moves much faster. You must notify your employer of a job injury within 45 days of the accident, either verbally or in writing.

Make sure to include all your contact info, your social security number, and a brief description of the injury to prevent delays.

On the other hand, personal injury lawsuits are more complex but often result in higher settlements, especially for severe or permanent injuries. It just takes longer to wait for your money.

 

Final Thoughts

The best approach depends on the specifics of your accident and injuries. Speaking with an experienced Illinois truck accident lawyer is the best way to understand your options fully and determine the best path to take.

Contact Malman Law About Your Truck Accident Case

If you have questions about personal injury law or workers’ comp claims, contact a legal specialist immediately. In Illinois, your go-to law firm is Malman Law. Schedule a no-obligation consultation today.

 

Steve Malman

Malman Law’s founder Attorney Steven Malman has over 30 years of experience handling personal injury, nursing home, medical malpractice, truck accidents, car accidents, premises liability, construction, and workers’ compensation cases in Chicago, IL.

Years of experience: +30 years
Justia Profile: Steve Malman
Illinois Registration Status: Active and authorized to practice law—Last Registered Year: 2024

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