What You Need to Know About Suing Workers’ Compensation for Pain and Suffering

Workers’ compensation does not include damages for pain and suffering. Here’s everything you need to know about suing workers’ compensation for pain and suffering.

An employee cannot sue solely for an injury of pain and suffering. However, if the employee is not able to earn an income due to the pain and suffering, they may be able to sue for workers’ compensation.

What Is Workers’ Compensation?

California Labor Code §3700 requires every employer in the state of California to have workers’ compensation insurance. Workers’ compensation insurance is a type of liability insurance where the employer assumes complete liability for all worker injuries.

Employers are required to purchase workers’ compensation insurance from either a licensed insurance company or through the State Compensation Insurance Fund (State Fund). The State Fund is a state-operated entity that competes with private workers’ compensation insurance companies for business. It operates as a last-resort insurer if private companies are not willing to offer workers’ compensation insurance.

Failure to have workers’ compensation coverage is a criminal offense. California Labor Code §3700.5 makes it a misdemeanor punishable by either a fine of at least $10,000 or jail for up to one year, or both. Additionally, the state issues penalties of up to $100,000 against illegally uninsured employers.

Related: California Workers’ Compensation Laws

What Does “Pain and Suffering” Mean?

The legal definition of pain and suffering refers to the physical discomfort and emotional distress that are compensable as noneconomic damages. Damages are the sum of money the law imposes for a breach of duty or violation of some right. It refers to the pain, discomfort, anguish, inconvenience, and emotional trauma that is the result of an injury.

Conditions for Workers’ Compensation in California

In workers’ compensation law, a “compensable injury” is one which causes disability or need for medical treatments. The injury must be one that is physical or emotional.

Compensable injuries under workers’ compensation law generally fall under one or more of the following categories:

  • Specific injuries incurred because of one incident or exposure in the employment and the effects of the injury are immediately realized or realizable,
  • Industrial injuries suffered as the result of a specific incident or exposure,
  • Continuous increasing traumatic injuries as the result of several minor strains over a period of time, and
  • Accruing injuries as a result of continuous exposure to harmful substances.

Liability for the compensation provided by workers’ compensation must follow all of the following conditions:

  • At the time of the injury, the employee is performing a service of their employment and is acting within the course of their employment,
  • The injury is proximately caused by the employment, either with or without negligence,
  • The injury is not caused by intoxication, by alcohol or unlawful use of a controlled substance, of the injured employee,
  • The injury is not intentionally self-inflicted,
  • The injury did not result from an altercation in which the injured employee is the initial physical aggressor,
  • The injury did not result from voluntary participation in an off-duty recreational, social, or athletic activity which is not part of the employee’s work-related duties or employment requirements,
  • The injury is not caused by the commission of a felony or a crime that is punishable as a felony or as a misdemeanor, by the injured employee for which they have just been convicted, and
  • The employee has not willfully and deliberately caused their own death.

An employee’s physical pain and mental suffering resulting from an injury sustained during their course of employment are not compensable in a workers’ compensation case—unless they affect the employee’s ability to work. The purpose of workers’ compensation law is to make amends for a disability attributable to the employment causing the loss of earning ability. Thus, mere pain and physical impairment cannot form the basis of compensation unless it is an injury that raises a presumption of incapacity to earn.

Related: Workers’ Compensation Lawsuit in California

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If you have any more questions about suing workers’ compensation for pain and suffering, contact us. We’ll get you in touch with the most qualified attorneys for your unique legal matter. Get your free consultation with one of our Work Injury Attorneys in California today!