A month ago someone asked me if they could get pain and suffering after injuring themselves at work. I get this type of question a lot especially when someone is injured through the negligence of their employer. For example, if you are walking down the hall and step on a loose floorboard which causes you to fall and tear your rotator cuff, you’d be pretty pissed and probably want to sue your employer.
Unfortunately pain and suffering are not allowed under the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act. You are barred by law from suing your employer for general negligence due to injuries sustained while working. Pain and suffering only happens in lawsuits, so no lawsuit, no pain and suffering.
That might sound unfair, but in exchange for workers giving up their rights to sue their employer, they do not have to prove that their employer was at fault when they got injured. In other words, if your back pops when lifting a box on the job that may be from bad luck or bad lifting form, but it doesn’t sound like anyone really is to blame. You still have a great Illinois work comp case though because as long as you were injured while performing your job duties in a reasonable manner, you are entitled to benefits.
There are about 45,000 claims filed every year in Illinois and if you had to prove fault in every one of them my guess is that there would be only a few thousand cases. You certainly wouldn’t see claims for injuries like carpal tunnel or other repetitive stress injuries. It would be terrible for workers because so many of you would be injured with no job and no income or way to get medical care.
While the benefits you get in a work comp case aren’t usually as high as in a normal personal injury claim, they do compensate you for your medical bills, lost time and while there is no pain and suffering per se, you do get a settlement for the permanent nature of your injury even if you are feeling back to normal when your medical care is over. So it may not be called pain and suffering, but in a way it gives you a lot of the same things.
One caller wasn’t having it with my explanation and told me how unfair this all was. I get that it seems that way, but the reality is that our system is way better for injured workers as a whole than if you could sue, but always had to prove fault when hurt. It might not have been the best for that one caller, but for 95% or more of injured workers it clearly is.