Workers’ Compensation vs. Personal Injury: What’s the Difference?

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All jobs pose potential hazards to employees. Whether you sit at a desk all day or you work at a construction job site, workplace injuries can cause serious medical and financial problems for victims.

If you have been injured on the job in California, your employer may tell you that workers’ compensation will cover all your needs. While workers’ comp is supposed to cover your medical costs related to a job injury, it might not be your only option. Understanding the differences between workers’ compensation and personal injury can help you choose the best course of action following a workplace injury.

Pros and Cons of a Workers’ Compensation Claim in California

California law requires that, with few exceptions, all employers operating in California carry workers’ compensation insurance coverage. This coverage will provide workers injured on the job with reimbursement and/or compensation for medical bills and lost income.


The biggest upside to workers’ compensation is that you do not have to prove negligence to make a claim. In simpler terms, you don’t have to prove that your employer, coworkers, or a third party did anything wrong to collect benefits. You may even be able to recover if the accident was your own fault.

Workers’ comp insurance should cover the cost of any medical treatment reasonably necessary to treat your injury. It also allows you to collect temporary disability payments (usually equal to two-thirds of your regular wages) and/or permanent disability payments, if applicable. If your injuries force you to pursue a new line of work, workers’ comp will help cover the cost of your training in a new vocation.


Workers’ compensation only allows you to recover medical bills and lost wages. Even the compensation for lost wages is incomplete: temporary disability payments only cover two-thirds of the wages you would have earned.

These payments do not account for the many other forms of compensation you may need after a workplace accident, including:

  • Future lost wages
  • Future medical expenses
  • Pain and suffering after your accident
  • Punitive damages against the employer

In addition, the workers’ compensation amount you’re entitled to following a workplace accident is left to an insurance adjuster to decide. The insurance company may deny your claim, leaving you with a choice of either enduring the appeal process or paying your medical expenses out of your own pocket.

Benefits of Filing a Personal Injury Claim

It is often more beneficial for injured workers to file a personal injury claim against the party responsible for your accident. Because a personal injury case allows you to recover for a broader range of damages, the compensation in a personal injury lawsuit is often higher if your claim is successful.


A personal injury claim can provide much more thorough coverage to those injured in workplace accidents. This coverage can include:

  • The full cost of medical bills, both now and in the future
  • All lost income from the time your injury left you unable to work
  • Future lost income due to loss of earning capacity
  • Pain and suffering
  • Punitive damages against your employer


To file a personal injury claim, you must be able to prove your employer did something wrong (i.e. you must prove they were negligent). This inherently involves more risk—if you are unsuccessful, you may not be able to recover.

However, working with a trustworthy law firm that has extensive experience dealing with work injuries eliminates this risk. With a law firm like PARRIS, you can trust that your case is in good hands.

Workers’ Compensation vs. Personal Injury: Which is better for you?

As lawyers are infamous for saying… it depends. The differences between workers’ compensation and personal injury claims can be summarized as follows:

  • Workers’ comp claims do not require a finding of negligence, but only cover medical bills and lost wages.
  • Personal injury claims are not always available and require a finding of negligence, but also may allow for more damages above and beyond medical bills and lost income.

If you are able to work with a trustworthy work injury lawyer, filing a personal injury claim is usually the best option for the plaintiff. Though recovery may take longer, the amount recoverable in a lawsuit is much greater than workers’ compensation insurance.

Is filing a personal injury lawsuit for a work injury always an option?

Unfortunately, California law bars injured workers from suing their employers or coworkers in many scenarios involving workers’ compensation claims. However, depending on the facts of your case, one of many exceptions could apply—and you could file both a workers’ comp claim and a personal injury claim.

Can I file a workers’ compensation claim and a personal injury lawsuit at the same time?

It is possible that both options are available to you. For example, your injuries could have been caused by a third party’s negligence, in which case you could collect workers’ compensation benefits from your employer and sue the third party for personal injuries.

Another exception is if your employer intentionally injures you—as was the case for a former PARRIS client. In such an instance, workers’ compensation insurance would not shield the employer from liability, and you could take legal action against them.

Getting legal advice from a skilled and trustworthy workers’ compensation lawyer or personal injury lawyer is the only way to know for sure what options and remedies are best for you and your specific situation.

PARRIS has over 37 years of experience navigating both workers’ compensation and personal injury claims. Contact PARRIS today to find out how we can help you recover the compensation you deserve.

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If you need immediate assistance, please call our office at (661) 464-0745 and ask to speak with someone in our Intake Department available 24/7.

Alex Wheeler - PARRIS Law Firm Attorney Speaking with a Client - Legal Consultation

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