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Steven M. Lee, PC

Q:
Can I get workers’ compensation for the pain and suffering due to a job-related injury?

A:

There are many benefits you can receive under workers’ compensation in Texas. Unfortunately, a settlement for pain and suffering acquired from a work-related injury isn’t one of them—at least not in a conventional sense.

In exchange for giving up the power to sue your employer and to collect for pain, you get the state-enforced guarantee that your medical bills and lost income will be recouped. Although this may seem like a fair trade, pain and suffering that results from an injury can be even more debilitating than the injury itself. Therefore, despite workers’ comp (WC) covering your medical bills, you may be thrown into financial turmoil anyway, as a result of anxiety, depression, and the inability to face your work.

However, if your employer is not a subscriber to the Texas workers’ comp program, or if you have a legal claim against a third party, then you may have options. These options include pursuing pain and suffering damages as a separate part of your recovery.

How Is Pain and Suffering Defined Under Workers’ Compensation?

The phrase pain and suffering refers to physical discomfort as well as to all of the negative emotions you experience as a result of your injuries. These emotions can include frustration, sadness, anger, humiliation, and depression. In other words, anything that has decreased your emotional quality of life can qualify as pain and suffering.

Unfortunately, the majority of pain and suffering cases are considered out of the coverage area of workers’ compensation. Workers’ compensation laws are basically income laws that protect injured employees while they’re unable to work due to pain caused by an accident. However, WC laws are based on each state’s own workers’ comp system. Every state has adopted a similar—but not identical—no-fault system. When you file for workers’ compensation under a state’s laws, you lose the right to sue for pain and suffering. Therefore, employees have an easier time getting workers’ compensation benefits for medical bills and lost wages but are exempt from the harder-to-quantify pain and suffering claims.

Your Pain and Suffering Recovery Options

Just because state law limits your options for pain and suffering compensation doesn’t mean that you’re completely out of options. If your injuries or the pain of the injuries have directly led to emotional or mental degeneration, you may be able to recover damages through four specific avenues.

  • Through workers’ comp. Although state laws prohibit pain and suffering claims, some cases may be eligible to be filed under non-state statutes. For example, railroad workers have the opportunity to file under the Federal Employee Liability Act (FELA). FELA, which is not technically a workers’ compensation program, may allow injured workers additional compensation for pain and suffering.
  • By filing a lawsuit against your employer. Unlike most other states, Texas allows employers to opt out of participating in workers’ compensation. Those employers are subject to civil lawsuits from workers hurt on the job—and the lawsuits can include demands for pain and suffering damages. If you work for a “nonparticipant” company, a lawsuit may be able to recover more compensation than a similar claim under workers’ comp.
  • Through third-party civil suits. If a third party, such as a contractor, manufacturer, or boss (not the company) was directly responsible for your injury, you may be able to file a civil lawsuit against him. In these situations, a separate suit may be in order to include additional damages not covered under workers’ compensation—specifically, pain and suffering.
  • Through Social Security disability. When your injuries have led to a significant degeneration on your mental status, you may become physically incapable of returning to work. If your emotions and mentality keep you from working, you may be eligible for Social Security disability under the mental disorder classification.

If you are eligible to file a civil lawsuit, call or email local workers’ comp and personal injury attorney Steve Lee as soon as possible. Statutes of limitation deadlines for filing personal injury lawsuits are short—you don’t have time to delay. With over 25 years’ worth of experience with workers’ compensation claims, liability disputes, and insurance trickery, Steve Lee has the resources to help you build a strong claim. Contact him today to set up a no-obligation case review. Trust us; you won’t regret it.

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