Why Workers' Compensation Claims Do Not Pay Out For Pain And Suffering
No matter what kind of agony or life changes your injury causes, no state allows you to receive payment for pain and suffering through workers' compensation (WC). Many people are under the assumption that WC works like a personal injury case. It doesn't, but there are a few, narrow, paths to obtain compensation for pain and suffering.
Why There's no Pain and Suffering in Workers' Comp Cases
Workers' compensation insurance is very much like a compromise between employers and the state. WC insurance will cover your injuries and medical bills, and even help you get back to work. It will cover these things no matter who was at fault. In exchange, you cannot sue your employer.
Since you're not "suing" for your WC benefits, there's no associated compensation for pain and suffering. WC benefits are mostly cut-and-dry. It goes by dollar amounts from verifiable lost wages, and the price of documented medical care. Pain and suffering is very much subjective, so it's impossible to put a general dollar amount on it that can please everybody.
When You Can Receive Compensation for Pain and Suffering
There are very narrow circumstances in which a workers' comp claim can earn you compensation for pain and suffering.
Third party lawsuits – If a third party was involved in your work injury, then you can apply for WC while also pressing a personal injury lawsuit against the third party.
For example, if a defective product injures you at work, you can sue the manufacturer or distributor of the defective product. The personal injury claim can pay out pain and suffering while the WC claim can see to your lost wages and medical care.
Intentional actions – If your employer purposefully allowed or administered your injury, then it's sometimes possible to sue the employer directly. You'd have to prove malice on the part of your employer. An intentional action is direct and personal, such as if your employer purposefully used fists or a weapon on you.
Mental and emotional injuries – In some states, it's possible to receive payment for mental or emotional injury. This isn't the same as pain and suffering, but it's close. However, these kinds of injuries have to occur directly because of a workplace situation. These kinds of injuries are also difficult to prove.
Psychiatric injuries are a special case. When seeking workers' comp benefits for psychiatric injuries, it's not about seeking extra compensation. Instead, you are making a WC claim because of the psychiatric injury.
Ask A Professional About the Situation
In general though, there's no provision for receiving compensation for pain and suffering in a workers' compensation case. But if you feel that you have one of these other avenues toward additional damages beyond what WC can give you, then you need to speak to a workers' comp lawyer about it.
An attorney can help you figure out if there's a third party involved, or whether your injury occurred due to malice. He or she can also help you figure out what you can do about a mental, rather than physical injury. For more information, contact a professional like Freedman, Wagner, Tabakman & Weiss.