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Is Compensation for Pain and Suffering Available in Workers’ Compensation?

Workplace injuries leave many people in considerable pain. Fractures, back injuries, and head injuries are disabling. They can prevent workers from sleeping well at night, and many need painkillers like opiates to just get through the day. Even repetitive motion injuries like carpal tunnel syndrome can leave a person with crippling pain.

In a typical personal injury case, workers can receive compensation for pain and suffering. This financial compensation seeks to make up all the physical pain and bodily inconvenience an accident victim suffers as the result of an accident. Is this true of workers’ compensation? Can you receive financial compensation for pain and suffering?

As we explain below, no. You cannot usually receive any compensation for pain and suffering in your workers’ compensation claim. Workers’ compensation provides benefits for only particular losses. Call us to speak with a Waterloo workers’ compensation attorney. We can review the entire range of options, including whether you can make a third-party claim for an accident. We can travel to meet anyone in considerable pain, so reach out 24/7.

Workers’ Compensation Benefits in Iowa

Here are some of the benefits workers comp provides in Iowa:

  • Medical benefits: You should receive all reasonable and necessary care for your injuries.
  • Temporary total disability (TTD) benefits: You can receive TTD benefits if you miss more than three days of work due to your injuries.
  • Temporary partial disability (TPD) benefits: You can receive TPD benefits if you return to work at a lesser paying job due to your injury. For example, a leg injury might confine you to a desk job.
  • Permanent partial disability (PPD) benefits: PPD benefits are available for those with a permanent disability who can nonetheless work. For example, workers might receive PPD for losing a body part, like a hand, leg, or foot.
  • Permanent total disability (PTD) benefits: These benefits are for those who cannot return to gainful employment at all.
  • Death benefits: Surviving family members might qualify for a death benefit when a worker dies in a workplace accident or due to an occupational illness.
  • Vocational benefits: Workers might also qualify for vocational training to help them return to work in a new job or to pay for modification of an existing job.

As you can see, there is no compensation for pain and suffering. Instead, disability benefits are paid based on the workers’ average weekly wage, as well as the statewide average.

How to Receive Pain and Suffering Compensation

Can some workers nonetheless receive pain and suffering compensation? The answer is “sometimes.”

First, you cannot sue your employer if you receive workers’ compensation benefits. This is the general rule in Iowa. Protecting employers from lawsuits was one incentive to get them to agree to pay into the system in the first place. They are protected from a large jury award against them. In return, injured workers can obtain no-fault medical care and disability benefits.

However, you might bring a personal injury lawsuit in certain situations:

  • You were injured by a defective product while working.
  • You were injured in a motor vehicle accident while working.
  • You were injured while traveling for your job.

Lawyers call these lawsuits “third party” claims, because you are suing someone other than your employer. Workers’ compensation does not prevent these types of lawsuits. At Ball Kirk & Holm, P.C., we consider whether you can bring a third-party claim.

Defective Product Claims

Workers handle all sorts of products on the job. One of them might be defective, which leads to a workplace injury. Examples include:

  • Defective ladders or scaffolding which collapse underneath a worker, sending them sprawling to the ground.
  • Malfunctioning lithium-ion batteries which catch on fire in a phone or computer and burn a worker.
  • Faulty bookcases which crash onto a work or chairs which collapse underneath them.
  • Defective electronics which explode and injure a worker.
  • Faulty personal protective equipment, like masks, respirators, face shields, gloves, and so on, which fail to work properly.

Under Iowa law, you can sue the manufacturer of a defective, dangerous product if it injures you. And you can seek full compensation for all losses, including pain and suffering.

Motor Vehicle Accidents

Many workers travel as part of their job. For example, you might drive to give presentations to clients, or you make deliveries for your boss. Other people work in transportation, such as delivery drivers, which means they are always on the road. These workers can suffer motor vehicle accidents. For example, a negligent driver might strike you in an intersection or rear end you. In the lawsuit, you can seek compensation for all damages, including pain and suffering.

Off-Premises Accidents

Other people who travel or run deliveries are injured by a property defect. For example, you might be a delivery driver who is hurt stepping into a business to deliver a box. You might slip on loose tile or slippery floors. Similarly, a person who travels to make roadshow presentations might be injured by a defect in a hotel.

Remember, a defect on your employer’s property would not give you a right to sue your employer. You have a claim if you are hurt on someone else’s property while performing your job.

How Much Pain and Compensation Can You Receive?

Unlike economic losses, this is a more subjective category of damages. Nonetheless, there are certain factors we consider:

1.       The severity of your disability and pain. The more serious your injuries, the more pain and suffering compensation you can receive.

2.       Your emotional distress. “Pain and suffering” is an umbrella term which also covers emotional harms, like embarrassment, stress, anxiety, or depression. Some injuries cause immense emotional anguish. Consider how a burn on a person’s neck or hands could lead to intense anguish.

3.       The defendant’s resources. The person who hurt you might only have a car insurance liability policy. That will limit the amount you can receive for pain and suffering.

Contact Our Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Today

Ball, Kirk & Holm, P.C., is proud to help injured workers receive as much compensation for their workplace injury. Call us for help with a workers’ compensation claim. We can also discuss whether you can bring a third-party lawsuit.