Avoiding Legal Trouble

Is It A Personal Injury Or Workers' Compensation Case?

One of the trickier dividing lines in American law is the one that exists between workers' compensation and personal injury cases. The workers' comp system was designed because the American system used to require all employees to file personal injury cases to get compensation. As industry expanded, it became unfeasible for the courts to handle all those cases, and a separate legal track was created for the majority of work-related injury cases.

There are still, however, some times when it can be tough to determine whether you need personal injury attorney services or workers' compensation attorney services. Take a look at three scenarios where that distinction remains important.

Seamen and the Jones Act

People who work at least 30% of their time aboard boats, ships, or other vessels are classified as seamen under the Jones Act, a law that governs a lot of American seaborne navigation and employment. Seamen are required by law to pursue damages as personal injury cases. If you're legally a seaman, you may need to look for a personal injury attorney who has worked with maritime cases in the past.

Contract Workers:The Dirty Version

One of the skeevier things some employers try to do is to get out of paying for workers' compensation insurance by declaring all their workers to be 1099 independent contractors instead of employees. Here's the thing: the courts hate that. To be a legally recognized independent contractor and not a full-on employee, a person must be able to work at will. This means they can select or reject jobs, usually from a pool of tasks or by seeking projects directly from clients.

Especially in the construction industry, the 1099 gimmick is abused. If you were given a schedule and were expected to appear on a regular basis, you probably weren't an independent contractor even if your employer set it up that way. You can talk with a workers' compensation attorney about pursuing a claim like any normal employee.

Contract Workers: The Clean Version

Suppose you came to the previous hypothetical construction site as a true independent contractor. Maybe you operate your own electrical contracting business. Under those circumstances, injuries caused by on-site negligence, recklessness or malice would likely be outside the workers' comp system.

A personal injury attorney, however, could help you build a case. You'd have to bring your claim against either the company that contracted you or the owners of the location, and it would be processed through their insurance carriers.