No. Pain and suffering is not part of Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation. If you sustain an injury at work in Pennsylvania, you are entitled to two- thirds of your wage loss and payment of medical bills (and specific loss benefits if you lose a limb, toe, finger, or suffer disfigurement). Pain and suffering damages are not available because fault is not an issue in Pennsylvania Work Comp cases. (although injuries that are self inflicted or caused by intoxication aren’t compensable, naturally). Some injured workers will receive 90% of their pre injury average weekly wage. And, there is a weekly maximum payment each year too- that changes year to year.
Pennsylvania Work Comp benefits are payable without regard to fault. In other words, it doesn’t matter if you were injured as a result of your fault (intentional injuries aren’t covered of course), the employer’s fault, or no one’s fault. Benefits are payable if you were 1) employed, 2) suffered an injury or disease, 3) in the course and scope of employment.
You Might be Able to Get Pain & Suffering if Your Work Injury was Caused by a Third Party
However, if your work injury was caused by a third party- ie, someone other than your Employer, then pain and suffering damages may be available for you in that third party suit, but not in the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation matter.
If you have a third party case- that is, a case against an entity other than your employer for negligence, then pain and suffering damages may be relevant. For example, if you were working and in a car accident, you would have a Pennsylvania Work Comp case against your employer, and a 3rd party personal injury case against the driver who caused the accident- assuming they were negligent and that the negligence caused the injuries. In these situations, the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation carrier has the right to subrogation- which means reimbursement- from the proceeds of the 3rd party case, using a specific formula.
What About Lump Sum Payments?
You hear about lump sum settlements because the settlements are for past and future loss of earning power, and medical benefits. In other words, the insurer wants to buy the claims to end their exposure- and the parties negotiate a lump sum to end the case. Not every case results in a lump sum settlement. An example of this would be if a Work Comp Judge found an injured worker to be fully recovered, or if an injured worker return to work and wasn’t interested in settling out the medical benefits.
Consequently, when injured workers hear about large lump sum settlements in a Work Comp case, the amount of the settlement factors in the loss of earning power and the agreed upon value of future medical treatment- but not pain and suffering. Because the settlements can be large, it is common for injured workers to believe that pain and suffering is part of the equation.
It is simply a trade off. An injured worker in Pennsylvania only has to show he/she was injured in the course and scope of his/her employment- and so, in that respect, it is fairly easy to establish a work injury, but the Employers aren’t punished with pain and suffering damages because whose fault the injury was, isn’t relevant.
It is very important to recognize that every case is different. I always remind clients of this because many people call me and tell me their co-worker got X amount of money. There are probably 100 or more important distinguishing factors in any two cases. Comparing your situation to someone else’s is not a wise way to spend your time. I am available 7 days a week to give you a free consult.