Can I Sue For Pain and Suffering After a Workers' Comp Injury?
Pain and suffering can sometimes be the most difficult part of a workers’ compensation matter. Injured workers are so often exposed to TV news reports or other articles and even documentaries which detail the huge monetary awards in personal injury cases. Many expect that they will see a huge sum of money from their Workers’ Compensation claim for their pain and suffering. That is, unfortunately, simply not the case in workers’ compensation. Pain and suffering is generally not part of Workers’ Compensation cases.
Workers’ Compensation is a man-made body of law designed to ensure medical treatment and compensation for lost wages are provided to an injured worker – it is separate from the common law area of personal injury. The main difference is that Workers’ Compensation is not intended to be punitive. Employers in high-risk fields would be bankrupt from paying out claims if there weren’t limits to damages. This does not mean that you won't see any money from your Workers’ Compensation claim — a good workers’ compensation attorney will get you the maximum recovery you are entitled to — you just cannot expect a massive sum as you might see in a jury trial for a car accident case. This is not to say that we don't see seven-figure awards in a catastrophic Workers' Compensation claim — we do; this is to say that in most Workers’ Compensation claims, the awards are often smaller than people expect because pain and suffering are excluded from the equation.
It used to be very common for injured workers to allege Permanent Disability (PD) occurring from depression, stress, anxiety, etc. after suffering a physical injury. However, legislation was passed several years ago reforming the law and limiting the monetary compensation awarded in such instances. For injuries occurring after 1/1/2013, an injured worker can no longer receive an increase in PD due to psychological distress, loss of sleep, or sexual dysfunction secondary to a physical injury, unless the injury is catastrophic or the individual was a victim of a violent act or was exposed to a violent act. To some extent, this put an end to recovery for “pain and suffering” in many workers’ compensation cases. Notwithstanding, you may still be entitled to medical treatment and TTD, or TPD benefits. You should consult with an experienced attorney to determine whether you have a case for “pain and suffering," particularly if you've been a victim of workplace violence.