Exploring the Difference between Workers Compensation and Personal Injury

Published 11 Feb 2016

At Gerard Malouf & Partners Compensation Lawyers we’ve gathered considerable expertise over the years in two broad areas in particular: workers compensation claims and personal injury claims.

While the two areas are often linked in the eye of the public, in reality they address very different scenarios. In this article, we’ll concentrate on workers compensation but use personal injury claims as a means of introducing the critical difference between the two types of claim – the concept of fault or negligence.

What defines a personal injury claim?

The key concept at play here is that of fault or negligence. To successfully pursue a personal injury claim – for example, a slip and fall or medical negligence case – you have to be able to prove not just that an accident happened, but also that liability is involved.

Subject to discoverability criteria, there is a three year limitation period in NSW for personal injury claims i.e. that is how long from the unfortunate event’s occurrence you have to make your case.

If negligence can be established, then the subject of damages can be raised. Personal injury cases allow for a wider range of damages to be claimed than for workers compensation cases including lost earnings.

You can see case studies relating to claims we have successfully handled as personal injury lawyers throughout our site, including detailed sections on motor vehicle accident claims, negligence claims, and Slip & Fall claims.

What is a workers compensation claim?

Where personal injury claims are primarily concerned with establishing negligence and assigning appropriate damages, workers compensation claims centre around fostering safe workplaces and providing support for injured workers.

In contrast to the field of personal injury claims, workers compensation claims should generally be made within a period of six months and negligence does not need to be proved to claim.

All employers in NSW are obliged to have a workers compensation policy. They are also required to record incidents of injury and keep a register of injuries.

What type of injuries are covered by workers compensation?

Both physical and psychological injuries can be claimed for as lump sum compensation though both are subject to strict assessment criteria. In the case of psychological injury claims, this requires a minimum of 15% whole person impairment. Physical permanent impairment claims have a lower threshold of 10%.

Injuries sustained will necessarily have to have occurred within the context of your working environment, though there are provisions for injuries sustained en route to work and while travelling in certain cases.

Can I claim weekly payments or recoup medical expenses?

Where a workplace injury results in loss of earnings, you may well be entitled to weekly payments. Be aware, however, that the amounts available will vary considerably according to the specifics of your case and the length of time you have been receiving payments.

Medical treatment and rehab expenses may also be covered but the majority of treatment requires pre-approval so it is critical you seek professional advice as soon after your injury or accident as possible. 

Workers compensation falls under the auspices of WorkCover in NSW and their site contains an excellent overview of all areas of workers compensation claims.

As you’ll notice from browsing the site however, it’s a complex area with a vast amount of ifs and buts to take on board. If you have suffered a workplace related injury, we advise taking advantage of our free over-the-phone advice, or in-person consultations, at the earliest opportunity.

We operate on a no win, no fee basis and are happy to give you independent, impartial advice on all aspects of your worker compensation claims. We look forward to helping you navigate your claim successfully.