One of the most common questions that I have been asked is whether or not a New York State employee injured at work can collect damages for pain and suffering. The answer is that they cannot sue their employer and collect damages for pain and suffering. Many people find it difficult to believe that they will never recover for pain and suffering from their employer.
In New York State, work related injuries allow the injury victim to collect Workers’ Compensation benefits which do not include any awards for pain and suffering. They are limited to a percentage of lost wages and medical treatment which is now extremely limited under the new Medical Treatment Guidelines.
The confusing part of the equation is that some people are able to collect Workers’ Compensation benefits and secure a personal injury settlement or verdict which includes an award for pain and suffering. This is because those individuals have been injured at work due to the negligence of someone OTHER than their employer and may be able to file suit against the non-employer defendant. An example of this would be a taxi cab driver who is stopped at a red light and is rear-ended by a drunk driver. The taxi driver can collect Workers’ Compensation benefits because his injury occurred while working. He also can file a personal injury action against the drunk driver that hit him because that is not his employer.
However, if the taxi cab driver falls asleep at the wheel while working and hits a telephone pole, there is no defendant to sue. In this instance, the driver would be limited to Workers’ Compensation and/or no-fault benefits which do not include any element of pain and suffering.
If you have been injury during to course of your employment and have questions as to whether or not there is a viable defendant who may be liable for pain and suffering damages, we would be happy to speak to you. If you have other questions regarding your rights under the New York State Workers’ Compensation Law, we can answer those questions for you as well.