Can I Sue For Pain And Suffering After My Work Injury?
Compensation for pain and suffering is not available to worker’s compensation claimants. However, that statement is not as absolute as it sounds. As is the case with most laws, though, there are exceptions.
The intention of worker’s compensation laws nationwide is to get employees who are injured at work compensation for their injuries quickly and simply. The state of Wisconsin is no exception. Part of the simplification of getting compensation for workplace injuries, however, includes giving up the right to sue your employer in most circumstances. In exchange, you are paid for:
- Your injuries.
- Lost work.
- Medical expenses.
- Other economic injuries resulting from being hurt at work.
This is stated under Wisconsin’s worker’s compensation laws.
When everything works properly and there are no disputes about whether an injury is covered, you will receive compensation in a predictable amount, and you will get it promptly. That compensation under the worker’s compensation law does not include payments for pain and suffering.
There Are Cases Where You Can Recover Pain And Suffering Damages After A Workplace Injury
Obviously, there are pros and cons surrounding giving up your right to sue your employer for a workplace injury under most circumstances in exchange for worker’s compensation payments. When cases are clear-cut on whether the injury qualifies as arising out of your employment and there is no dispute regarding the extent of your injuries, things generally go pretty smoothly. You will start getting worker’s comp payments very quickly.
This is especially important if you are missing work because of your injury. On the other hand, under the worker’s compensation law, you also generally can’t sue your coworkers, either. If a coworker makes a mistake at work that results in you being injured in an accident, your remedy for that is worker’s compensation payments.
There are other pros and cons regarding worker’s compensation, but those are two notable examples. You can sue a coworker for injuries suffered in an intentional assault upon you by that coworker, as well as under certain other limited circumstances. Even then, however, you cannot recover damages for pain and suffering.
So how is it possible to recover damages for an injury suffered at work and covered by worker’s compensation? If you can’t get pain and suffering damages when you’re physically attacked and injured by a coworker, what’s left? The answer is third-party lawsuits.
If your injury results from the negligence of a third party, you can sue that third party for damages, including pain and suffering. Third parties can include:
- Independent contractors.
- Delivery personnel.
- Repair personnel not employed by your employers. An example would be an equipment maintenance personnel employed by the equipment manufacturer. Basically, anyone else performing work on your employer’s premises who is not employed by your employer.
If the negligence of a third party who is working on your employer’s premises with permission causes you injury, you are free to sue that third party. What does this mean for you?
For starters, it means you are not bound by the restrictions of the worker’s compensation system prohibiting lawsuits over workplace injuries. Those restrictions apply only to your employer, your coworkers, and your employer’s worker’s compensation insurer. With a third party that is at fault, or at least potentially, the gloves are off. You can sue them to your heart’s content. You can also pursue any damages to which you believe you are entitled, including damages for pain and suffering.
If I Sue A Third Party, Do I Still Get Worker’s Comp Benefits?
The short answer is yes, but that answer comes with conditions. If you suffer a workplace injury that might be the fault of a third party and sue that third party, you can still file your worker’s compensation claim and collect benefit payments. You are entitled to do so under Wisconsin’s injured worker’s laws.
In general, you will receive at least a third of whatever you recover in that lawsuit. However, your employer’s worker’s compensation insurer will be entitled to reimbursement for any benefits paid to you, in addition to any collection costs. You will receive the rest.
If you reach a damages settlement with the third party, their insurer, or another party responsible for the payments, the state department that administers worker’s compensation must approve any settlement. However, if your case proceeds to a jury verdict and you recover damages, that approval is not required. You still must reimburse your employer’s worker’s compensation insurance carrier for any benefits payments you received as a result of your workplace injury.
The rest, though, is yours. This is, of course, minus what you have to pay your lawyer. Your final sum can include pain and suffering damages. Depending upon the nature and severity of your injury, that amount can be substantial.
Even if you don’t initially bring a civil lawsuit against the third party potentially responsible for your workplace injury, either your employer or your employer’s worker’s compensation carrier can bring the lawsuit. If they do so, they have to provide you with notice, and you can join the lawsuit.
Regardless, if your employer or your employer’s insurer initiates the suit, even if you don’t join the suit you will get whatever is recovered. The amount will be minus whatever benefits you were paid and the costs of the lawsuit, including attorney’s fees. That would reduce your recovery. So it is a good idea to let your employer and the insurer join your suit, or simply benefit from it than to let one of them initiate the suit.
Consult With A Milwaukee Work Injury Attorney
If you have suffered a workplace injury you believe to have been the fault of a third party not employed by your employer, you can sue that third party even under the worker’s compensation system. If you find yourself in such a situation, you should consult the Milwaukee workplace injury attorneys of Gillick, Wicht, Gillick & Graf.
Our lawyers passionately fight for our clients to defend their rights. It doesn’t matter where in Wisconsin you are. Our Milwaukee worker’s compensation lawyers know that you and your family deserve all of the financial compensation possible when you are hurt while at work.
If you have suffered a workplace injury because of the negligence of a third party, talk to the Gillick, Wicht, Gillick & Graf employment injury legal team. We’ll give you a free evaluation of your case without any obligation. Our attorneys work from our Milwaukee office but we fight for injured employees throughout Wisconsin.