If you find yourself injured in an automobile accident while driving at or for work, you likely have many questions about who is liable for your injuries, lost wages and pain and suffering. Specifically, employees can be hesitant to seek benefits through workers compensation for several reasons. First, many employees believe the other driver caused the accident and the at-fault driver’s automobile insurance is their only source of recovery. There is also a very understandable apprehension about filing against an employer for fear of being fired for making such a claim.
First, these cases can become extremely complex and any confusion or apprehension you may feel is completely understandable. One reason is the fact that two different areas of law are involved – personal injury and worker’s compensation. The two areas may seem very similar, but they are actually very different. In an automobile accident resulting in a personal injury, it generally involves negligence. So, what constitutes negligence? From a legal standpoint, “negligence” occurs when one party has a duty to another and they breach that duty, causing an injury that results in damages to the injured party. When driving, each driver’s duty is to obey the traffic laws in place where the accident takes place. Examples of a breach of this duty include speeding, failing to yield the right of way, driving while intoxicated, among many others. Generally, when a driver breaches this duty by violating a traffic law, and that breach causes someone to be injured in an accident, they have committed a “negligent” act. A victim of negligence can seek recovery for both economic damages such as medical bills and lost wages, as well as non-economic damages such as pain and suffering and emotional distress. If the parties are unable to reach a settlement, a jury generally determines the final outcome.
Workers compensation law, on the other hand, is a no-fault system. This means that, with a few, rare exceptions, employees covered by workers compensation who are hurt on the job are almost always covered, even if the employee was negligent in some way. While most injuries are covered by worker’s compensation, the injured worker is limited in their ability to recover. Their recovery is limited to bills related to the accident, a percentage of their lost wages while out of work (2/3rd of their weekly wages, which is capped at a certain amount) and an amount for any permanent loss of use of a body part. Notably, the injured worker, under the South Carolina Workers Compensation Act, is not able to recover for pain and suffering. Additionally, the employer’s worker’s compensation carrier has the authority to direct treatment, including the physician treating the injured worker.
These cases allow an injured party to “double-recover” and an attorney is vital to recovering fully and dealing with the subrogation liens involved. If you or a loved one is involved in a car accident at work, please contact Beach Injury Lawyers today for a free case evaluation.