Is Pain and Suffering Covered Under Workers’ Compensation?

A male worker feels back pain sitting on ground

If you have suffered a work injury, you may wonder—is pain and suffering covered under workers' compensation? Iowa law does not allow injured workers to recover compensation for pain and suffering when filing a workers' comp claim. However, employees may be able to file a personal injury lawsuit against a negligent third party to recover for physical and/or emotional pain and discomfort.

Recoverable Benefits—Is Pain and Suffering Covered Under Workers' Compensation?

When workers suffer injuries at work, their remedy is usually to file a workers’ compensation claim. Whereas people who suffer injuries during a car accident or due to the poor physical condition of a business can file a personal injury claim against the person who caused their injuries, workers are restricted to making a claim through their employer's workers' compensation insurance.

Workers' compensation generally allows injury victims to recover three types of workers' comp benefits. These include:

Medical Benefits

Victims may be able to recover compensation to cover the cost of medical treatment and travel to and from appointments. Every worker that suffers an injury at work should seek medical treatment. If a worker delays treatment or fails to follow medical advice, the workers' compensation insurance company may claim that the worker worsened his or her injury and the insurance should not have to cover the medical costs.

Temporary Disability

Injured workers may also recover compensation for lost wages if they missed work because of a work-related injury. Workers' compensation is the sole remedy for injured workers. If they can show that they were forced to miss work due to their injuries, their employer's workers' compensation insurance should agree to cover at least a portion of their lost wages.

Permanent Disability

Permanent disability benefits compensate victims for permanent impairments caused by a work-related injury. The amount of compensation will vary based on the part of the body injured and the nature of the injury. Injured workers can look at the payout workers compensation body parts chart to determine the normal compensation for a lost or injured body part.

An injured worker cannot recover workers' compensation pain and suffering. Pain and suffering is not recognized as a recoverable loss. However, injured workers may be able to use their pain and suffering to show the extent of their injuries.

Using Pain and Suffering to Prove the Extent of an Injury

Victims of work-related injuries may be unable to recover workers' compensation pain and suffering and other types of non-economical damages through the Iowa workers' compensation system, but these damages are still important to their work injury claims. Workers' compensation pain and suffering experienced should be documented to help prove how severe an injury is. Additionally, workers may be entitled to additional benefits if the physical pain from their work injury caused a mental or emotional condition that requires treatment.

Injured workers can detail the pain and suffering they endure by keeping a journal. Following an injury, individuals can write down how they're feeling and any pain they're experiencing, including physical and mental distress. Documentation could help show insurers how severe the injury is, which may help maximize the amount of compensation recoverable for medical costs, along with temporary or permanent disability.

How to Recover Compensation for Workers' Compensation Pain and Suffering

Injured workers may still be able to recover compensation for pain and suffering caused by a workplace injury if someone other than their employer was responsible for their accident. For example, they can file a personal injury claim or lawsuit against a negligent driver who caused a car accident, a manufacturer of faulty equipment that caused them to be injured, or a cleaning company that contributed to a work-related slip and fall.

Photo of Niko Pothitakis
For the past 15 years Mr. Pothitakis has focused his practice on Workers Compensation and Personal Injury Cases. The firm has two locations, one being in Burlington, Iowa and the other in Keokuk, Iowa. Mr. Pothitakis works with many area unions and employee organizations to provide advice, assistance, and guidance as it relates to employment issues. Mr. Pothitakis provides free consultations to those with legal questions in the firm's areas of practice. In this initial meeting or conference potential clients are provided advice on their need for assistance and how they need to proceed.