When you suffer workplace injuries, your employer's workers' compensation insurance should cover medical expenses and partial income losses. But an accident traumatizes more than your body and mind. It can cause pain and mental suffering that erode your quality of life.
Getting workers’ comp pain and suffering damages is not easy. Although every workers' compensation claim is unique, most injured workers are not eligible for these damages under Washington law.
After a work-related injury in Seattle, contact us for a free consultation with a workers' compensation attorney to discuss all possible sources and types of compensation you can get.
"Pain and suffering" refers to a category of damages also referred to as "non-economic damages". The best way to understand these losses is by contrasting them with economic damages.
Economic damages represent financial costs like medical bills and lost wages. Non-economic damages have no price. Instead, they erode your quality of life by keeping you awake at night, making your days miserable, and preventing you from doing what you enjoy.
Typical non-economic losses include:
You can get these damages in a lawsuit. But there are limitations to the pain and suffering workers’ comp covers.
By definition, these damages have no value. And there is no formula for calculating pain and suffering in Washington State. Instead, experts use two methods to calculate an amount based on the injuries:
In both of these methods, more severe injuries lead to greater damage amounts. But neither applies in workers' comp cases because insurers do not pay workers' compensation pain and suffering.
Does workers’ comp cover pain and suffering? No, it does not. You can recover these damages in a personal injury lawsuit, but you cannot recover them through a workers' comp claim.
Washington law requires most employers to buy workers' compensation insurance. This insurance policy guarantees that workers will receive benefits when they suffer a workplace injury. The incentive for insurers to offer this type of insurance is that the policy does not pay for pain and suffering. Instead, it pays only for medical expenses and partial income loss.
But keep in mind that pain and suffering are not the same as a psychological or emotional injury. These types of injuries are considered compensable consequences of work accidents.
For example, suppose your work accident causes post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Workers' compensation will pay for counseling and medication to treat panic attacks and anxiety. But it will not pay for the erosion in your quality of life due to these symptoms.
In most cases, you cannot sue your employer for injuries. When employers buy workers' compensation insurance, they receive immunity from employee lawsuits for work injuries. Thus, a workers' comp claim is your exclusive remedy for an on-the-job injury. But the law has two primary exceptions that allow you to sue your employer for a work injury:
Intentional injuries happen when your employer deliberately intends to injure you. This is a very high standard. It would not be enough to prove your employer violated a safety regulation. Instead, you must prove your employer knew the safety violation would result in an injury.
Thus, you could sue if an employer knowingly:
Temporary workers are covered by the temp agency's workers' compensation policy. You can also sue the temp employer if it acted negligently in causing your injury.
Instead of asking, "How do I get pain and suffering payment from workers' comp?" you should instead look for ways to get pain and suffering damages from the person or business that caused your injury. Third-party claims happen when an injured worker sues someone besides their employer. Typical personal injury claims include lawsuits against:
If you file a third-party personal injury lawsuit, you can pursue both economic and non-economic damages from the at-fault party for your workplace injury. Importantly, you can get these damages on top of any workers' compensation benefits you receive.
As an example, your workers' compensation benefits cover two-thirds of your lost wages. In a personal injury lawsuit, you can get the other one-third of your lost wages that your workers' compensation claim did not cover. Since workers' compensation does not cover any of your non-economic losses, you can recover pain and suffering damages from the third party.
Workers' compensation claims are subject to many rules. But the answer to "Can you get pain and suffering from workers' comp" is consistently no. The workers' compensation system was not designed to provide these damages.
After a job-related injury in Seattle, you need an experienced workers' compensation lawyer. Your workers' compensation lawyer will stand up to the workers' compensation insurance company to maximize your benefits. The lawyer will also determine whether you have a third-party claim that will allow you to recover pain and suffering compensation.
If you want to recover your compensation for your pain and suffering, workers’ comp, and all of your lost wages, contact us.