Getting hurt while on the job can feel very traumatic. Especially if the repercussions of said injury take a mental toll in addition to the physical. While workers’ comp will cover your medical bills, can you get additional compensation for the anguish you also experience? It’s a common question and one that a reader sent us again recently asking: “Does workers comp pay for pain and suffering? I got hurt pretty bad at work and feel like my job owes me more money.”
While you may feel you deserve a bigger settlement for what you’ve gone through, the general answer is no. Workers’ comp does not financially compensate for pain and suffering. But let’s further explore what it does cover and any exceptions to this rule.
When Can a Person Get Compensated for Pain and Suffering?
Technically, “pain and suffering” is a legal category of general damages that falls under personal injury claims. It includes conditions such as anxiety, depression, emotional distress, fear, anger and humiliation. Some of these mental health ramifications may also emanate from disfigurement, scarring or other physical impairments resulting from the injury.
No doubt, these things hurt, are real conditions and may cause enormous struggle for the injured party. But they’re not going to be a part of a workers’ comp settlement.
The only time someone can levy a claim for damages for pain and suffering is if they sue their employer. That is only possible in states that don’t require an employer to carry workers’ comp insurance. And currently, there is only one state that doesn’t require businesses to carry workers’ comp and that is Texas.
So, if you live in Texas and experience a work injury, suing your employer may be necessary to get coverage. That means medical and/or pain and suffering. That’s because about 29% of Texas employers choose not to carry workers’ comp policies for their employees.
In any other state, if you accept workers’ compensation benefits, you forfeit all rights to sue for other damages. That includes damages from pain and suffering. And in states that do require employers to carry workers’ comp insurance, that’s the only way you’ll get any compensation.
What Does Workers’ Comp Cover?
Workers’ comp insurance streamlines the process between employers and employees when injuries occur on the job. It means employees typically don’t have to “prove” their employers’ fault in a court of law to get coverage.
But while it makes it easier for employees to get their bills covered, it comes with a trade-off. Beyond coverage of medical bills and lost wages, there’s no further compensation for things like pain and suffering.
Here is what workers’ comp will cover:
- Medical bills related to your injury or illness. Workers’ comp provides coverage to pay for medical expenses resulting from the work-related injury or illness. This may include emergency room visits, surgeries, hospital stays and prescriptions.
- Lost wages. While workers’ comp includes some wages lost while an employee cannot work, it’s generally not their whole salary. Compensation varies by state, but it’s usually around two-thirds of their average wages for the time missed due to injury. Also, there is a waiting period — again, variable by state — for these lost wage benefits to kick in. Usually, the injured employee must wait three to seven days after the onset before the tabulating of lost wages begins.
- Ongoing care. If a work-related injury or illness needs more than one treatment — like physical therapy — workers’ comp will cover those costs. This is important because rehab can really add up!
- Funeral costs. This is, of course, the worst-case scenario. But if an employee loses their life as a result of a work-related accident, workers’ comp covers funeral costs. It will also provide death benefits to the employee’s beneficiaries.
So, as you can see, workers’ comp does provide many positive benefits for employees with injuries or illnesses. It isn’t set up to deprive you from “pain and suffering” benefits, but rather to support you medically and financially.
Exceptions Where Pain and Suffering Claims May Be a Possibility
In addition to the Texas caveat, there are a couple other scenarios where pain and suffering might factor in.
If an employee develops severe depression or another mental issue because of their injury, it might be a “compensable consequence.” This doesn’t mean you’ll get money for it. But it does mean you can petition to have treatment for the resultant issue included in your workers’ comp claim.
Also, there are some cases where the injured worker can sue a third party (not the employer) for personal injury. This would be in addition to the workers’ comp coverage you receive. For example, if you are a truck driver and your injury resulted from another driver’s error, you could sue them. But again, this is not part of workers’ comp and would be an entirely separate case.
Unsure of the workers’ comp laws in your state or think you may have a personal injury case as well? It’s a smart move to have a free consultation with an attorney who can help.
Because the last thing you need is more pain and suffering as you try to navigate the workers’ comp process!
Kimberly Dawn Neumann is a multi-published NYC-based magazine and book writer whose work has appeared in a wide variety of publications ranging from Forbes to Cosmopolitan. She graduated summa cum laude from the University of Maryland, College of Journalism. For more, visit: www.KDNeumann.com, Instagram @dancerscribe, and Twitter/X @KimberlyNeumann.